Occupational therapists are sometimes asked to “fix” a student’s handwriting. “I can’t read my child’s/student’s handwriting” is frequently mentioned as a concern. An occupational therapist does not “teach” students how to write. That would be the role of the classroom teacher with committed support from the parent. An occupational therapist’s role when assessing writing is to determine the extent to which a student has significant visual perceptual or visual motor impairment that prevents legible writing. If this is the case, the OT will help the student remediate and/or compensate for his/her need. If the student has functional visual perceptual and visual motor skills, the child’s needs may be due to a concern that falls beyond the scope of occupational therapy such as expectations or motivation for legibility. It is also important to note that OT is more focused on the mechanics of writing, and not the writing content and conventions (ie.thought process, spelling, punctuation).
The school based OT often gets questions regarding sensory processing and how it may impact the student’s ability to focus and participate in the classroom. It is important to clarify that there can be a difference between pure “attention” difficulties and “sensory” based attention difficulties. The school-based therapist determines the extent to which sensory processing needs may be impacting the student’s classroom performance. The therapist will provide strategies to meet the student’s sensory needs during the school day.