It's Occupational Therapy Month

It's Occupational Therapy Month

April 13, 2022

Did you know that before the early 1970s over 4.5 million children were prevented from access to sufficient education specifically because of their disabilities?  Since then, the pioneering enactments of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and Education for All Handicapped Children Act (EHA), have pushed the field of special education to help improve the lives of students with differing disabilities and special circumstances. This April we're celebrating Occupational Therapy Month to highlight the several ways occupational therapists help serve these students everyday.

Improving Children's Lives

Occupational Therapy (OT) is one of the many specialties that assists students with improving, "physical, cognitive, psychosocial and sensory components of performance," says the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA). OT essentially helps eliminate barriers that affect one's emotional, social, and physical needs using everyday activities, exercises, and other therapy. Therapists guide students by focusing on academics, play and leisure, social participation, self-care, and transition/work skills, to emphasize learning how to strengthen those elements together and on their own.

OT helps strengthen individual's fine motor skills, visual-perceptual skills, cognitive skills, and sensory-processing problems, according to Nemours Kids Health. OT's ability to aid gross motor skills often aligns with working with physical therapists since some of their goals are related. The Child Mind Institute indicates working on fine motor skills through dexterity - like holding a pencil or silverware - while sensory OT helps a child with issues synthesizing touch, hearing, taste, smell and sight. With these in mind, occupational therapists are often called upon to help curate different learning environments for children with autism, ADHD, and more. Assessing a student’s skill set and limitations ultimately helps improve their success in the classroom.

Continued Efforts

Funding for occupational therapy programs in public schools is guided by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Its purpose, "makes available a free appropriate public education to eligible children with disabilities throughout the nation and ensures special education and related services to those children." This includes occupational and other services and programs to provide the best educational opportunities regardless of a students disabilities.

Equal access to education for students with disabilities can be attributed to things such as occupational therapy, existing laws, continued advocacy, and social awareness. We encourage you to continue the conversation by doing more research, speaking with the occupational therapists you know, and supporting efforts towards equality in the classroom for students of differing abilities.

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