Teachers and Teachers’ Assistants do an incredible job of setting the stage for learning each day, but what exactly do school Occupational, Physical, and Speech Therapists do in our schools? Related Services such as OT (Occupational Therapy), PT (Physical Therapy), and Speech are provided through the Exceptional Children’s Department for students who have IEPs and require these services to help them access the curriculum in their classrooms. A student’s IEP (Individualized Educational Plan/Program) informs special educators and therapists of what each student needs to work on to increase his or her success in the classroom and around the school campus. OTs work to assist students with such skills as fine motor usage (writing, buttoning, cutting, zipping, etc.), sensory needs, and organizational or self-help skills; whereas PTs work to assist students with gross motor skills (walking, climbing the stairs in a school or bus, bearing their own weight), or participating in physical education activities. Speech therapists (SLPs) help students to use language to help express such things as their wants, needs, and comprehension skills, as well as to articulate sounds and words most appropriately. IEP teams consisting of OTs, PTs, and SLPs help develop plans for what children should work on each year in their IEP, and they evaluate and assess these students’ strengths and weaknesses to assess whether the need is still there for these continued services.
Together with teachers and other special educators, OTs, PTs, and SLPs work on positioning, finding specialized seating/equipment for various children, and helping students with ways in which to respond to and/or access an activity better. They also help our students experience textures and work to adjust various situations to allow the student to become more tolerable without having difficulties that causes a student to regress. To do mouth stretching exercises before a meal might be the key to getting a particular student to close their lips on a fork and swallow food. To ride a scooter in the hall and feel the surface changes might give students the courage they need to try to ambulate on their own. Therapists provide many experiences for students, such as these.
Our school therapists work outside of the classroom in gyms and therapy rooms, as well as inside the classroom in inclusion groups. They can also be found working with students in hallways, in cafeterias, and even on the playground and on field trips. They provide therapy in various settings in order to give students exposure and experiences needed to transfer skills throughout all of their educational activities.
Students and teachers benefit from the support, resources, and encouragement that these therapy experiences provide on a daily basis. It truly takes a team to allow our students to experience growth and success in all areas! Thanks to the therapists at Conover School, as well as the N-CCS therapists who work in each of our schools, in homes, and in private schools across our school district! You do make a difference!