Occupational Therapy

Within school, Occupational therapists work to promote, maintain, and develop skills needed by students to be functional in a school, home or wider environment depending on identified needs. School and daily life is made up of many activities (or occupations). Occupations for children or young people may include, for example:

Self-care (getting dressed, using cutlery, managing toileting needs and managing personal hygiene routines, preparing a healthy snack, cleaning own trainers)

Productivity (going to school, volunteering, posture, sleep routine, handwriting, using a switch to access technology and activities linked to organisational skills, problem solving, gaining a sense of purpose,)

Leisure (play, socialising with friends, belonging to a club, participating in hobbies, Physical education, achieving awards)

Occupational therapists may grade activities, suggest alternative ways of doing things, provide advice on learning new approaches and techniques, or make changes to the learning environment, for example, through use of equipment, adaptations or strategies devised to facilitate an environment conducive to a students learning needs.

During the school term, Occupational therapists provide therapy intervention to students with neurological conditions such as cerebral palsy, as well as those with speech, language and communication difficulties. Although therapeutic interventions can vary significantly between students and are bespoke to their individual needs, intervention may work towards goals relating to selfcare, productivity and/or leisure. These could include:

  • Life skills
  • Fine motor skills
  • Access to technology – Use of software, switches, eye-gaze and/ or environmental controls
  • Recording work – Handwriting skills, use of technology and/or software
  • Organisational skills and Problem solving
  • Sensory processing strategies to aid emotional regulation
  • Selfcare/ self-help skills/participating in daily routines
  • Meaningful occupation (all the things we need, want or have to do)
  • Application of multisensory environment
  • Accessing the community
  • Powered wheelchair and manual driving
  • Adaptive equipment including small aids/ equipment
  • Preparation for adulthood
  • Postural management
  • Access the learning environment within the school setting.
  • Healthy lifestyle and leisure

Percy Hedley School provides an integrated approach where Occupational therapy is embedded across the school day to promote access to the curriculum and improve performance in activities of daily living. OTs form part of the class team consisting of Specialist Teacher, Physiotherapist, Speech and Language therapist (SaLT) and Learning Support Assistants (LSA’s). There is a shared accountability for all professionals to work towards goals and provide opportunities to maximise learning throughout the school day. This approach is embedded within the school curriculum and therefore forms the basis of transdisciplinary working.

Occupational therapists work with students through individual, small group and whole class sessions, Therapy input may occur within classroom settings, therapy rooms, or within community settings.

Collaboration towards shared goals with outside agents including the NHS, wheelchair services, community Occupational therapists or equipment representatives occurs to approach therapy interventions in an effective and holistic manner.

OT and the MOVE Approach

Children with Cerebral Palsy / Neurological Conditions / Motor Disorders

Occupational Therapists work with students who follow our MOVE approach to encourage the development of key skills to maximise functional performance. Occupational Therapists work alongside physiotherapists to provide the necessary strategies to apply movement to everyday activities, in a unified approach which can lead to achievement. These principles form the basis of the MOVE programme (Movement Opportunities via Education).

For example, Occupational Therapists can support students understand and sequence stages of hand washing drawing upon their ability to move their arms as taught in physiotherapy programmes. Occupational Therapists will also consider all aspects of the task for example, sink height, style of tap, bar of soap vs liquid soap, ability to attend and sequence this task.

MOVE is a recognised approach which recognises students have different abilities and goals so that students experience activities and can participate in these to the best of their ability.

Learn more about our MOVE Programme  >

Speech and Language Department

Students with Speech, language and communication difficulties / Autism spectrum condition / ADHD/ Developmental coordination disorder.

Occupational Therapists work with students within the Speech and Language department to promote, maintain, and develop skills or ability in functional tasks; through graded activities, suggesting alternative ways of doing things, providing advice on learning new approaches and techniques, or making changes to the learning environment.

Skill development may focus on occupations such as, handwriting, functional fine motor and/or daily living skills (such as play, food preparation, purchasing an item in a shop), work related learning or leisure.  Input can occur within school, through communication with parents/carers or in the wider environment depending on the students’ needs/priorities.

Sometimes students present with sensory processing differences. Here, the impact of the learning environment on a student with sensory processing differences is considered. The learning environment may need to be modified, or strategies devised to facilitate an environment favourable to a student’s sensory processing preferences in order to facilitate and support their engagement, learning and wellbeing.

Within the Speech and language department, Occupational therapists generally work within one of three areas across school.

Lower school:

The primary role of Occupational therapy intervention is to support engagement through managing the environment to meet student needs, to develop component skills to enable access to topic-based learning, understanding of daily school routines and self-care tasks.

Upper school:

The focus of Occupational Therapy intervention commences with transition into the upper school and supporting change of routine and the new demands of the school day within the upper school timetable.  Other areas of intervention may include supporting within the areas around self-care, and aspects of growing up and changes which occur in adolescence.

Developing skills within the wider community is an area where Occupational therapists may work individually or jointly with the Speech and language therapists or Physiotherapists to address students’ identified needs. These daily life activities (occupations) to develop performance in functional skills such as budgeting, social skills, travel, making a payment.

Occupational therapists work within class lessons, to support the nature of transdisciplinary approach. Food technology is one such area where occupational therapists are able to work on a wide variety of skills in context.

Post 16: (Speech and language students)

The Occupational therapy skill set is ideally suited for the Preparation for Adulthood Post 16 curriculum. The four core areas of Preparation for Adulthood are: Employment, Independent Living, Community Inclusion and Health.

Areas which Occupational therapy intervention may focus on include, graded activities linked to Life skills, preparation for work experience placement, transition to college, social communication within functional settings, friendships, leisure and healthier lifestyles.