As the field of special education evolves, it is becoming better understood how to evaluate the skills of special needs students; as such, schools are increasingly taking steps to help special needs students with their unique learning challenges and in obtaining necessary skills. School-based occupational therapists focus on two primary areas: assisting special needs students get the most out of their education through various programs and preparing students to lead productive and independent lives by helping them learn vital personal and self-maintenance skills; when possible, these therapists also help students learn skills that will help them find a job after they complete their education. This position requires direct interaction with the students, as well as the development and implementation of educational plans with instructors, administrators, and parents.
School-based occupational therapists typically work full time in a school environment. Overtime may be required for meetings, planning, and evaluation. They often work with students in several schools and will travel frequently as a result.
A bachelor's degree in occupational therapy or a related field is typically the minimum requirement for this position, with additional credits in special education a plus. In addition, certain states may require applicants to obtain licensing with state occupational therapy boards. School-based occupational therapists must take an interest in the development of special needs students, having the patience and drive to guide a large number of students through tasks they may find difficult.
School-Based Occupational Therapist Tasks
- Test and evaluate patients' physical and mental abilities and analyze medical data to determine rehabilitation goals for patient.
- Help clients improve decision making, abstract reasoning, memory, sequencing, coordination and perceptual skills using computer programs.
- Select and recommend activities that will help individuals learn work and life-management skills consistent with their needs and capabilities.
- Consult with rehabilitation team to select activity programs and coordinate with other therapeutic activities.
- Record prognosis, treatment, response and progress in patient's chart or computer database.