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Career Story: Occupational Therapist At A Suburban Elementary School

Occupational Therapist At A Suburban Elementary School

Job Title: Occupational Therapist

Type of Company: I work for a school district in a suburb of Boston.

Education: BS, Occupational Therapy, Quinnipiac College

Previous Experience: I worked at a Massachusetts state school for a couple of years and in private practice, as a contractor, for two more and later worked for five years at a rehabilitation hospital. I've held my current job in a school system for 21 years.

Job Tasks: I'm a registered, licensed occupational therapist currently working with students in grades K-5 and one of seven occupational therapists who work at local public schools. Most of the students who require our attention have disabilities like cerebral palsy and autism, but some have learning disabilities as well.

Students are referred to us by the school or their parents for an initial exam. This preliminary evaluation takes about 45 minutes and allows us to get a glimpse of students' functional skills: how they do in the classroom, that is. If we decide that they would benefit from therapy, we draft what we refer to as an "individualized educational plan," or IEP, to which their parents then have to consent. Services can be provided either in or out of class or on a consultative basis, with a teacher acting at the therapist's behest. The therapeutic activities we participate in are generally fun and aimed at helping students to complete their written work. And since we get to interact with children all day long, the job itself is pretty pleasant.

Best and Worst Parts of the Job: The best part of the job is working with children and involving them in stuff that they enjoy (like using putty or therapy balls).

The worst part of the job is completing the paperwork that is required by the state.

Job Tips:
1.) Occupational therapists can work in schools, nursing homes, acute care hospitals, rehabilitation clinics and psychiatric facilities, so it's best to find out which you like. 2.) Attend a college that's accredited in occupational therapy. Not all of them are. 3.) Make sure you have the pre-requisite courses you need (chemistry, biology, etc.)

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