Occupational therapy during school hours is a service offered for kids in special education that are having trouble with sensory or fine motor skills. It is tempting to assume that once you have successfully had this service included in your child’s education program, you do not have to worry about him or her anymore. Regrettably, as with most things to do with special education, you will need to monitor the service so as to ensure it is being provided as scheduled, by qualified occupational therapy personnel, in an appropriate manner and place. Here are some questions to ask the school management to make it easier for you to keep an eye on things:
What is the name of the occupational therapist?
People working with children with special needs normally try to make things as easy for them as possible. For instance, they only expect the kids to remember and pronounce an easy first name or an initial. That is all fine with the kid, and for the school staff, but not so fine if you require writing a letter or making a phone call to complain about an issue and can only refer to “Mr. M.”Learn the full names of everyone who works with your child, including the therapists.
Where will the therapy occur?
Maybe there is a nice classroom-sized space for the therapist to work in, with tunnels, mats, things swinging from the ceiling, tables, rice bins, ball pits, etc. Or maybe that beautiful space is no longer available and the therapist has to make do with whatever utility room is free at the moment. These are some of the things you won’t know about if you do not ask, and keep asking throughout the year. You need to be particularly concerned if the school where your child is schooling is known to be lacking in space or is overcrowded.
Is the therapist a school employee?
Not everyone who works with kids with special needs works for your school district. Physical and occupational therapists in particular might be placed by an agency and work in several districts or schools. This might limit the times and days they are available to work with your kid. There is also a likelihood that they might be transferred if your school district change agencies or due to their agency’s demands, leaving your kid mourning a much loved therapist, and therefore having to start all over building trust with someone new. Try and find out who your kid’s occupational therapist works for so that you will know what to watch out for.
Can I observe a therapy session?
Viewing a therapy session can help you see the value of time your kid spends with the occupational therapist and discover some games, toys and fun tools you can get for him or her at home. However, note that your presence in a therapy session will be disruptive and hence should not be done on a regular basis. Ask your child’s manager to arrange it and then quietly observe how the therapist works with your kid and how he or she responds. You might be able to provide some suggestions as to how to get the kid to be more cooperative.