Integrated OT in Natural School Contexts
Traditionally, OT's role in the schools has focused on serving students with disabilities by restoring function and adapting the task or environment to promote participation. However, the reauthorization of IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act) and NCLB (No Child Left Behind) has created new opportunities for OTs to contribute to health promotion and prevention in all children. The shift to include promotion and prevention models of service delivery has broadened the role of OT to serve all children and youth in general and special education by integrating services in natural school settings throughout the day.1
Emphasis on inclusion. Funded by the Office of Exceptional Children (OEC), Ohio Department of Education (ODE), the overarching goal of Every Moment Counts is on inclusion of students with disabilities and/or mental health challenges during all aspects of the school day and extracurricular after-school activities.
A major focus of this project is maximizing the impact of occupational therapy services. Interventions embedded in natural contexts (classroom, art, cafeteria, recess, after-school) versus isolated therapy rooms addresses the needs of students with disabilities without removing them from class time. Such integrated services also foster social interaction and the development of friendships among students with and without disabilities. In addition to addressing the needs of students with disabilities, embedded services also promote positive mental health and academic success in students at-risk of developing mental or physical health challenges as well as those without disabilities.
Integrated and inclusive services require close collaboration among all relevant school personnel. Planning time is essential. Collaboration with interdisciplinary team members and families is emphasized in all model programs and embedded strategies.
The aim of Every Moment Counts is to maximize the impact of OT by integrating services throughout the day in a variety of school contexts.
1 Bazyk, S., & Cahill, S. (in press). School based practice. In J. Case Smith & O'Brien (ed.). Occupational Therapy for Children (7th edition). Mosby.