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Career Story: Certified Occupational Therapy Assistant In A Public School

Certified Occupational Therapy Assistant In A Public School

Job Title: School Based Certified Occupational Therapy Assistant

Education: North Shore Community college-Associates of Science, Occupational Therapy Assistant program

Previous Experience: I always enjoyed working with kids. I knew I wanted to work in a school. In high school I thought I wanted to be a low grade teacher. I heard about occupational therapy and thought it would be a great interesting way to work with kids.

Job Tasks: I work in an elementary school (grades K-5), under the supervision of an OTR (occupational therapist). As an assistant I mainly treat kids. Since I do not have a masters of OT (Occupational Therapy), I am not allowed to perform evaluations on kids. I typically see kids in small groups (sometimes 1-to-1) in my room. I help them engage in activities to strengthen different weaknesses they may have.

For example if a child is evaluated and the results say they have fine motor weakness. when they come and work with me I pick out games or activities that help promote fine motor skills such as stringing beads or playing with mini-sized games.

I work a lot with kids on handwriting and keyboarding. Most of the kids I see are between Kindergarten and 3rd grade, but I do see some kids in 4th and 5th grade. Kids that I work with range from typically developing kids who just need an extra boost to children with severe autism and everything in between.

Best and Worst Parts of the Job: The best parts of the job are it is very rewarding, you have mother's hours, it never feels boring, and there is always something new.

The worst part of the job is it can be stressful dealing with high caseloads. When you reach a road block with kids you can feel frustrated. You also see a lot of kids who have it pretty tough and it can be hard not to get emotionally involved.

Job Tips:
1. Take full advantage of your field work experiences! Even though you may know you want to work with kids while you're in school they make you try everything. I wish I put more effort into learning about the elderly because you can make great money doing per diem work at nursing home.

2. Fully think about the ups and downs of going to school to be a COTA (Certified Occupational Therapy Assistant) instead of an OT. They have five year masters programs to be a full OT. It takes about three years to become a COTA (two years of OT classes 1 year of general education).

3. Once you finish school you have to take a test that costs about 500 dollars. Make sure when you're in school to do your best to learn things even if you're not interested, they will be on the test!

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