Written by: Stacy Kramer, OT Reg. (Ont)
Occupational Therapist & Clinical Director at Toronto Children’s Therapy Center
At Toronto Children’s Therapy Center, Occupational Therapists (OTs) and Ontario Certified Teachers (OCTs) have become a ‘perfect pair’. Since the main goal of Occupational Therapy is to enable people to participate in the activities of everyday life and the primary occupation for children is school, it makes perfect sense for occupational therapists to collaborate with teachers in order to facilitate a child’s development. It became clear to us that in order to address children’s needs in a more comprehensive way, we would need to effectively include teachers in our practice to fulfil important roles such as Writing Coach, whose role is to assist students in consolidating the skills they’ve learned following OT treatment, as well as Co-Facilitators for our camps and our new “School Readiness Program”. Teachers contribute to Toronto Children’s Therapy Center by providing an academic perspective that enriches our programs. The relationship is reciprocal, as Teachers learn about the skills behind the academics from our OTs. The result: a dynamic working relationship.
The Teacher’s Role
According to Early Intervention Canada, “Child development research indicates that learning and development is most rapid in the preschool years and thus intervention should begin as early as possible to enhance the child’s development, provide support and assistance to the family and to maximize the outcomes for the child and family’s opportunities.” We want to zero in on the expertise of educators with special education qualifications and allow them to contribute to our programs because they are trained to understand the complex learning process during critical stages of a child’s development.
The Occupational Therapist’s Role
Successful mastery of many academic skills, including math, reading, and writing depends on a strong foundation of developmental skills not always taught at school. These developmental skills range from perceptual and motor ability to behavioural and self-regulation skills. Occupational Therapists are trained to evaluate these skills in order to determine what may be impeding a child’s progress at school.
The “Skills for School Success Program” has been co-created by Occupational Therapists at Toronto Children’s Therapy Center and Teachers at Helping Hands Tutors in order to teach many of the ‘hidden skills’ necessary for school success. The benefits of having children work with an OT and OCT team are extensive. While both professionals have our own unique perspectives, we work together as a ‘perfect pair’ and share expertise which provides a far more rich approach to skill development. In this case, at Toronto Children’s Therapy Center we have learned that two heads really are better than one!