Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Occupational Therapy

Can my child receive Occupational Therapy in school without being classified?
When a child is having difficulties in school they may be referred for a full child study team evaluation to determine the child's eligibility for special education and related services. Once evaluations are completed it will be determined if the child requires classification and the appropriate related services under IDEA. There may be situations when a child is found not eligible for special education however the child may qualify for specific services under a 504 plan.

What is the difference between center-based and school-based occupational therapy services?
Occupational Therapy services provided in the school setting are very specific and related to the child's educational performance. The therapist providing the services is required by law to follow the Individualized Education Program (IEP) and all treatment is educationally relevant. Services provided in a center can include many areas of service and may enhance performance in other life tasks.

What is the difference between direct and indirect occupational therapy services?
Occupational therapy services can be delivered in a variety of ways depending on the child's strengths and areas of difficulty. Direct occupational therapy services consist of group or individual sessions provided in class or out of class (pull out) where the child's specific goals are addressed through hands on purposeful activity. Indirect services, such as consultation and/or monitoring are provided to those children who require more adaptation rather than remediation. Consultation is an ongoing communication between the therapist, parent, teacher and student where problem solving and trial of different adaptations and environmental changes are used to allow a student to function optimally in their educational environment without the need for direct services.

My child has terrible handwriting, does that mean they need OT?
Handwriting is just one reason a child may be referred for occupational therapy. Generally, handwriting alone is not indicative of a need for OT services. Those skills that are needed for functional written communication such as posture, fine motor skills, visual perceptual and visual motor skills should be tested and interventions provided if deficits are noted.

What is the difference between an OT and an OTA?
OTs are required to complete a bachelor or master's degree level education and must pass an exam to receive their license to practice. OTAs are required to complete an associate level of education and must also pass an exam to receive their license to practice. Stronger emphasis on OT theory and evaluation is included in the OT's education where the OTA's educational emphasis is on activity analysis and treatment techniques. Generally, an OTA can provide the same level of occupational therapy treatment as an OT but must always be directly supervised by an OT. An OTA can contribute to evaluation, treatment and report writing.

Can the classroom teacher or classroom aide address areas of difficulty cited by the OT?
Absolutely! It is the goal of any OT to have helpful therapeutic techniques and adaptations follow the child throughout their school day so that the child can be successful in all areas at all times. When possible it is helpful if the classroom or 1:1 aide accompany the child to their therapy sessions. As always, ongoing consultation with teachers and aides is a necessity for successful follow through in the classroom.

Can my child get his/her sensory needs addressed in school?
Despite the space and equipment concerns in many schools these days, your child's sensory needs can be addressed in school. Many OT's in school-based practice have specialty certifications in Sensory Processing beyond what is addressed in their basic education. The therapist will often consult with the gym teacher to share equipment and space, and if needed sensory strategies and other programs can be followed through by teachers and classroom aides.

What is Sensory Processing?
Sensory Processing is the neurological process that organizes sensations from our bodies and from the environment and makes it possible for us to use our bodies effectively during daily activities. We take in sensory input every minute that we are awake. Our bodies take in this input, process it and produce and appropriate response to the sensations (our actions or behaviors). If there is "glitch" in this system, sensory processing dysfunction may result, causing even simple activities that we often take for granted to become challenging.

Will my child grow out of this?
Not necessarily. There are many children who, as their neurological system matures and their skills develop, can work through some of their sensory issues. For children with sensory processing difficulties, they are most successful when their support network (parents, teachers, etc.) starts "thinking sensory" and adapts their environment based on the child's sensory preferences. So, the children don't "outgrow" their sensory issues, the adults get better at working with them and the children get better at accommodating to them and modifying their own environments for success. With the help of an occupational therapist trained in sensory processing, children with sensory processing difficulties can be confident and successful at many activities that interest them and in participating in their life roles and routines.

Physical Therapy

What does a school-based physical therapist do?
All physical therapists help people accomplish gross motor activities. These are activities using large muscle groups, including walking, jumping, lifting one's arms to put on a coat etc.

The school therapist must work on school related goals. These may include increasing access to school resources, mobility as it relates to the classroom, or increasing a student's ability to safely maneuver in the school's hallways.

Therapists strengthen weak muscles, help students stretch, and improve a person's balance and coordination. Treatment techniques, such as heat/cold, electrical stimulation, and biofeedback training are typically not provided in school settings.

Where and when does a school-based therapist work?
Therapy usually takes place where the child receives education. Appropriate intervention may be provided in classrooms, hallways, gyms, playgrounds, lunchrooms, or in a separate therapy room.

Therapy may be provided individually or in small groups by a therapist or therapist assistant. Intervention may or may not be provided directly with the child. Collaborating with educational staff to modify the child's environment and daily school activities is always a part of school therapy.

What provisions entitle students to school-based physical therapy?
The provision of school-based therapy is governed by federal and state laws (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act Amendment, PL 105-117). Therapy is a related service to special education and is provided only if the child needs therapy to function in the educational setting.

Who needs school-based physical therapy?
Students that have physical limitations preventing them from accessing school resources may be entitled to receive school therapy.

The need for therapy is determined by the IEP team. School case managers, teachers, and parents are a part of this team. When a member of the team recommends an evaluation and the parent or legal guardian gives consent, a therapist performs an initial evaluation. The evaluation report and recommendations are presented to the team prior to the IEP meeting. The team, in conjunction with the physical therapist, determines the amount, frequency and duration of therapy. In the educational setting a physician's referral is generally not needed in New Jersey.

Every year the IEP is updated. Changes to therapy are determined at the IEP meeting. This may occur when the student is no longer eligible for special education, when other members of the IEP Team can provide necessary interventions, or when the child can perform school tasks without therapeutic intervention. There may still be a need for community-based services.

Coordination deficits that do not impact a child's ability to physically participate in all age appropriate school activities typically do not require school-based therapy.

What can be done at home?
Encourage a healthy, active lifestyle. In the United States, the number of overweight children and adolescents has doubled. Elevated blood pressure and type 2 diabetes related to poor nutrition are also on the rise. Make exercise fun. Teach children about the importance of not smoking.

Comply with a home exercise program. Strengthening, coordination, balance training, and especially stretching are most effective when performed daily.

Participation in extracurricular fitness programs or sports is often helpful. Soccer, swimming, and karate all help improve coordination, strength, and endurance.

Workshops

What types of workshops are offered by CSH School Therapy Services?
CSH School Therapy Services developed many workshops, on a variety of topics, ranging from the development of fine and gross motor skills to therapy services in the school system to sensory processing. We are currently developing more workshops and will tailor any of our existing workshops to meet your needs. Please ask about any topics in which you are interested.

What is the fee for workshops?
The fee for workshops is based on several factors including the length of the presentation, the number of participants, and the type of workshops. The fee includes necessary handouts and information packets. Extras, including materials for "make and take" activities and "goodie bags," may also be included depending upon the topic.

Where do the workshops take place?
CSH School Therapy Services goes on the road to bring the workshops to you. In some cases, workshops can take place at our Mountainside location, while some are offered virtually.

For whom are the workshops designed?
CSH School Therapy Services designed workshops for a variety of audiences including medical professionals, child study team members, teachers, paraprofessionals, childcare providers, parents and children.

Where can I get more information about workshops? Who do I contact if I am interested in setting up a workshop?

For more information or to set up a workshop experience, please contact Kellianne Martin, Senior Occupational Therapist, External Workshops and Seminars at schoolservices@childrens-specialized.org.

Learn More

To learn more about CSH School Services, email schoolservices@childrens-specialized.org.

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