Occupational Therapy

Occupational Therapy in the School Setting

Occupational therapists (OTs) and occupational therapy assistants (COTAs) function as part of the special education team within a school setting.  Generally speaking, OTs are concerned with a person's ability to complete the activities of daily living (ADLs) within the school setting with the greatest level of independence possible.  In school this may mean assisting children ages 3-21 to access the curriculum, helping to modify their curriculum, or address other functional tasks associated with learning.  OTs in the schools work with teachers, parents, and students to measure skills, develop, and achieve short term and long term goals as outlined on a student's annual Individual Education Plan (IEP). OTs within the school system tend to work with students identified as having one or more of the following areas of concern: sensorimotor, fine motor, gross motor, motor planning, visual motor integration, or visual perception.

Home Programs for Parents and Children (click sub-headings for a list of activities)

Fine Motor Skills -  refers to control and coordination of small muscle groups (such as hands and fingers) as they produce movements that require a high degree of precision. These movements may include such activities as drawing shapes, writing, cutting with scissors, and using utensils.

Visual Perceptual Skills - refers to the child's ability to look at and interpret visual information from the environment.

Visual Motor Integration Skills - refers to the child's ability to integrate visual perceptual input with a motor response.

Sensorimotor Skills - refers to the child's ability to take in information from the environment through their senses to understand what is going on both inside their own bodies and in the world around them.

Motor Planning Skills - refers to the child's ability to take in, organize, plan, and then execute novel fine or gross motor activity.

Referral Process

A student may be referred to the OT by a parent, teacher, paraprofessional, coordinator, or other Team members. The typical first step is an occupational therapy screening.


A screening is an informal observation of a student within the classroom setting.classroom setting. A screening is not a formal assessment. Parent consent is not needed for this observation. A screening is used as a tool to determine if an evaluation is warranted, check-in on the rate of a student's progress, and or make recommendations regarding modifications, accommodations, and classroom interventions. These may include suggestions such as: use of an Alpha Smart, pencil grip, series of exercises, movement breaks, sensory diet, or other adjustments to a student's learning environment to assist a student in fulfilling their role as learners. 


When it is deemed necessary as a result of the screening process, parental consent is obtained and a full occupational therapy assessment is conducted.

OTs use standardized and non-standardized assessments to determine eligibility for direct services or  the need for consultation. Once eligibility is established, OTs work with other members of the team to determine what is needed for a student to receive a free appropriate public education in the least restrictive environment.

Meet Our Staff

Loubaina Buxamusa, M.Ed., OTR/L

Miya Hanna, OTR/L

Lauren McGourty, M.S., OTR/L

Gina Ruggieri, MOTR/L

Katherine Olbert, COTA/L

Caitlin Wilbon, COTA/L

External Sources

Skill building sites and other references: 

Fine Motor Skills

Activities that improve Fine Motor Skills:

  • Tricky Fingers
  • Magna Doodle
  • Bristle Blocks
  • Legos
  • Lite Bright
  • Battleship
  • Squiggle Writer Pen
  • Squeeze Rocket
  • Stencils
  • Pictionary and Pictionary Jr.
  • Marble Works
  • Bead mazes
  • Busy Buttons
  • Bed Bugs
  • Crocodile  Dentist
  • Playdo
  • Clay
  • Theraputty
  • Bubble Wrap
  • Beads
  • Gimp
  • Marbles
  • Pennies
  • Thin Ice
  • Lacing

Visual Perceptual Skills

Activities to Improve Visual Perceptual Skills

  • Puzzles Graded to Skill Level
  • Mazes
  • Hidden Picture
  • Word Search
  • Geoboard
  • Finish Designs or Picture
  • Editing
  • Tricky Fingers
  • Super Minds
  • Mighty Minds
  • Origami
  • Rush Hour
  • Block
  • Battleship
  • Checkers / Chinese Checkers
  • Tile Mosaics
  • Connect Four
  • Tangrams
  • Memory Game

Visual Motor Integration Skills

Activities to Improve Visual Motor Integration:

  • Cutting on a line
  • Playing catch
  • Zoom ball
  • Tracing
  • Tricky Fingers
  • Connect the Dots
  • Copy Shapes and Letters in different modalities such as sand rice and shaving cream
  • Darts
  • Build with Blocks
  • Playing Jacks
  • Hand games
  • Mosaic tiles
  • Sidewalk chalk
  • Squiggle pen
  • Magna Doodle
  • Stencils
  • Mazes
  • Wikkistix
  • Bingo plotter patterns
  • Step by Step drawing books
  • Shoe tying
  • Dressing activity boards

Sensorimotor Skills

Activities To Improve Sensorimotor Skills:

  • Pull/Push tubes
  • Squeeze theraputty and squishy balls
  • Vibrating pens
  • Theraputty
  • Swing
  • Slide
  • Playground equipment
  • Parachute
  • Water tables
  • Sand tables
  • Rice/Bean Tables
  • Shaving Cream
  • Gum and Different Textured Edibles
  • Weighted Materials ie weighted blanket, vest, pencil and wrist weight
  • Bumpy cushion
  • Theraband/ exercise band
  • Exercise ball
  • Scooter board
  • Bike/tricycle
  • Body sock

Motor Planning Skills

Activities to Improve Motor Planning:

  • Playground equipment
  • Swimming
  • Gymnastics
  • Rock wall climbing
  • Obstacle courses
  • Imitation of tasks
  • Zoom ball
  • Exposure to novel sequencing ie Chinese jump rope, jump rope, jacks
  • Jenga
  • Tricky Fingers
  • Twister
  • Skipping
  • Crab walking
  • Bear walking
  • Charades
  • Scooter board
  • Roller racer
  • Bike and tricycle
  • Play musical instruments
  • Construction activities
  • Following a sequence or instructions
  • Arts and crafts
  • Oragami