With autism and learning disabilities bringing challenges to many classrooms, school therapists are in high demand. Most schools have access to a team of specialists who can help with speech, occupational, and language issues, and many other problems that face children in and out of the classroom that can be accessed at no cost to families.
Many times, parents and teachers are not aware of all of the different programs available. Healthcare workers should make themselves aware of the many different services that are available within the school system and share that information with parents, to create a cohesive plan of action when working to improve the life of a child.
Speech therapy is one of the most well-known school services. These programs are designed for students with a debilitating speech or language issue that requires intervention. Each district has their own set of criteria to determine qualification for speech services. The two most common factors in the decision are whether there is an actual disability present and whether that disability affects the student’s academic performance.
Occupational therapy is a wonderful tool for students with both gross and fine motor skills weaknesses. In some school districts, physicians’ orders are required for students to be able to visit with occupational therapists within the school for sessions, while in others, the occupational therapists’ own assessment is all that is necessary. Many districts share occupational therapists between multiple schools, so it may take time to have patients assessed for school-level services.
Water, Animal, and Other Specialty Therapies
In some school districts, programs like water therapy, horseback riding, and other forms of therapy are in place for students with varying levels of disabilities and concerns. These can be used for students who need additional gross and fine motor skills therapy, or in some cases to assist in the mental health care of students who have difficulty focusing, communicating, or otherwise. Check with your local school district to see if there are any special resources that could be useful to your patients.
School psychologists are often the first school clinicians to spot a mental health issue with a child. Generally, they are not able to diagnose and treat mental health concerns, but they are a wonderful resource for physicians and mental health professionals working with students. Though mental health services at school should not be a replacement for treatment by a medical professional, they should be brought into the loop with any treatment plan or known diagnoses so that they can handle any situations that arise during school hours.
Check with your local school districts to find out which services are available and what the qualifications are for students to take advantage of those services. Connect with the therapists and counselors to get their feedback on treatment changes that are working and things that may need to be adjusted. With a team approach between physicians, school therapists, and family, it is possible to make a huge impact in the lives of students.