School-Based Occupational Therapy

Occupational Therapists (OT)/Certified Occupational Therapy Assistants (COTA)

           April DeFrancesco-  Assistive Technology 845 225-8441, 845 228-2300,


What is Occupational Therapy?
School-based occupational therapy (often abbreviated as OT) is designed to enhance the student’s ability to fully access and be successful in the learning environment. This might include working on fine motor coordination or visual perceptual skills so the child can complete written assignments, helping the child organize himself or herself in the environment (including work space in and around the desk), working with the teacher to modify the classroom and/or adapt learning materials to facilitate successful participation. OT services are provided for students based upon New York State Part 200 Regulations.


What is the role of the Occupational Therapist in the educational setting?

  • To provide direct and indirect occupational therapy services
  • To participate in the academic intervention team
  • To observe students (parent/teacher concerns)
  • To consult with teachers
  • To attend meetings that support student programming
  • To design activities that support students in natural environments or general education curriculum
  • To provide professional development and training for staff and parents
  • To provide assistance in environmental adaptations
  • To support school compliance and data tracking 

Why would a student need Occupational Therapy?
Fine motor, visual motor, visual perceptual skills and/or sensory processing difficulties impede access to education

How is it determined if a student needs Occupational Therapy services?

  • Referral submitted by parent, teacher, other related services staff
  • Conduct initial screening (as requested)
  • Evaluation that includes standardized testing, functional testing, observation, case review
  • RTI, 504 Plan, or CSE meeting to determine the level of services warranted 

Direct services vs. consult services
Direct services

  • Service given directly to the student in either a group or in an individual session
  • Push in: to the classroom
  • Pull out: in a setting away from peers 

Consult services

  • Provides strategies and recommendations to:
    • General education teacher
    • Special education teacher
    • Teaching assistant, special education student aides
    • Parents 

What is the difference between Occupational Therapy and Physical Therapy?

  • Occupational therapists address hand skills (writing/small objects), self-care (shoe tying, dressing), sensory integration, organizational skills, and assistive technology
  • Physical therapists address walking, stairs, balance, coordination, posture, large motor skills, gym/recess skills, and sensory integration