In schools, occupational therapists assess and treat fine and visual-motor skills that impact students’ performance for tasks such as handwriting, typing, shoe-tying, etc. Another area that school-based O.T. addresses is sensory processing. In a school, O.T. looks at the way a student interacts with his/her environment. This includes the processing of auditory, visual, tactile (touch), vestibular (movement), and proprioceptive (input to muscles and joints) stimuli.
Some students may be sensitive to or avoidant of things in their environment, such as loud noises, bright lights, or accidental touch. Others may need more input than a typical person to maintain appropriate arousal and attention for participation. Still other students may have difficulty registering or appropriately ignoring things in their environment. Occupational therapists work on finding the most effective strategies to help a student be successful in his/her school environment. O.T.s have specialized training in creating sensory diets (structured plans to provide students with certain sensory experiences) and using sensory-based tools such as weighted vests/blankets, tactile bins, body socks, fidgets, etc. The goal is to ensure each student feels comfortable, calm, and prepared to learn and participate in his/her school day!
Megan Mele, OTR/L Occupational Therapist