The Role of and Occupational Therapists

November 29, 2016

Occupational therapy, known as OT, is designed to help children and adults acquire (or regain) the skills needed to perform the activities—or “occupations”—of daily life. Everyday life activities could include things such as social interactions and communication with teachers, parents, siblings and friends. These interactions can be complicated when a child or young adult has the neurodevelopmental disorder autism. Occupational Therapists are often part of a team of therapists that include: physical therapists, speech and language therapists and psychologists. As a team, this group can evaluate the needs of a child on the spectrum and where the therapy should focus its intervention plan.

Creating an Intervention Plan

One of the first things an OT will do is create an intervention plan after observing the student and gaining input about the child’s relationships, eating, self-care, and daily living skills from teachers, and parents. Along with the rest of the therapy team, an OT will set goals regarding one or two top priorities that address the most immediate and important issues. Once the goals have been set the OT practitioner may decide on the method to achieve that goal such as modifying the environment or engaging in one-on-one therapy. Each student is unique and thus the plan should also be unique in how to move forward with social interaction, communication and behaviors.

Our students at Milestones have usually been enrolled in previous public or private schools where they have not thrived because the therapy component was not embedded into the classroom and way of life. Milestones uses an eclectic curriculum to help our students master concepts. Some curricula that we use include: the Zones of Regulation, Michelle Garcia-Winner’s “Social Thinking,” and extensive Emotional Regulation.

In addition to using the curriculum to foster social and emotional skills, Occupational Therapists may need to foster better skills with gross or fine motor control to be successful at everyday activities and life skills. OT practitioners also help with sensory integration. Overall an OT function is to identify, develop, or adapt work and other daily activities that are meaningful to enhance the individual’s quality of life.