Using Your Team Effectively as a School-Based Occupational Therapist

by Howard Gerber on July 26, 2018

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occupational therapist teamOccupational therapists are often part of a multidisciplinary team to treat patients. Many of the people that receive occupational therapy can also benefit from other services and therapies. In a hospital setting, occupational therapists often work together with doctors, nurses, and discharge planners to treat patients.

A school-based occupational therapist also has a team. Working effectively with your team allows you to provide better services to your students. Your team can also be a source of information and support.

If you are new to school-based therapy, it’s helpful to learn about what each team member does and how you can work together to help your students reach their goals.

School-Based Team Members

Although you probably already have an idea what various team members do, it may be helpful to consider how you can work with each professional optimally.

Keep in mind; school districts vary, and budget cuts may not allow for certain positions. Typically, you can expect to work in a collaborative environment with the following educators, therapists, and specialists.

General education teacher: If you have students on your caseload that work with general education teachers, they can be a valuable resource. General education teachers can let you know how your students are interacting with others and what areas they feel the child needs to work on.

Special education teachers: Some students you work with may be in special education classes. As a school-based occupational therapist, you should work closely with special education teachers to develop goals for the IEP and monitor your student’s progress.

Teacher’s aides: Depending on the needs of the child you are working with, he or she may be assigned a teacher’s aide. It’s helpful to get input from the student’s aide. Aides might have more insight and information than the teacher. Many aides work one on one with specific students for the entire school year. Because they work closely with students, they often get to know the child’s strengths, weaknesses, and interests.

Physical therapists: Many students you work with may also receive physical therapy. In some instances, you might want to consider providing co-treatment together. Working side by side with a physical therapist might help you gain a broader perspective on treatment and work on closely related goals together.

School counselors: School counselors help students in several areas including academics and social and emotional adjustment. Counselors are a great resource for occupational therapists and can provide information on appropriate community services, academic assistance, and career development.

Psychologists: There might be instances where you have a student that may benefit from the services of the school’s psychologist. In addition to behavioral or emotional issues, the school psychologist can help students with concerns related to addiction, mental health, and family issues. A school psychologist might also provide insight that helps you work more effectively with a student.

If you work as a school-based occupational therapist, what tips do you have to work with team members effectively?

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