How do outpatient and school-based OT differ?

What does OT look like in schools?

School-based occupational therapy is designed to enhance the student’s ability to fully access and be successful in the learning environment. This might include working on handwriting legibility, strengthening fine motor skills, implementing strategies and exercises to improve visual perception, assisting the student with organizing his/her locker or desk, supporting self-regulation of attention and arousal level so the student can be available for learning, and working with the teacher to modify the classroom environment and/or adapt learning materials to facilitate successful participation.  Direct and consultative school-based occupational therapy services can occur within special education via the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).  A student with a medical diagnosis may be able to receive occupational therapy via a 504 Plan.  A 504 plan is a blueprint for how the school will support a student with a disability and remove barriers to learning. The goal is to give the student equal access at school.


What does OT look like in an outpatient setting?

Outpatient or private/clinic based occupational therapy can address all skills needed to function across environments including activities of daily living/self-care such as feeding and dressing skills, play skills, motor skill development, social skills, sensory processing and modulation, and self-regulation.  The holistic view focuses on increasing independence and efficiency and takes into consideration both the child and the family’s goals to improve daily function.  It is important to note that therapy must be considered medically necessary in order for insurance to consider services being warranted. An initial evaluation assists occupational therapists in determining a baseline level of function through interview, standardized assessment, and clinical observations which then can support justification for services.