OT in Schools is on the Rise

Occupational therapy in schools

Occupational therapy is on the rise.

It’s no secret that the occupational therapy field is growing and OTs and occupational therapy assistants are in high demand. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the growth of OTAs is expected to go up 32 percent, much higher than the average for all other positions.

But where are all of these jobs? It turns out, OT in schools is growing.

In 2015, the New York Times reported a sharp increase in the amount of students who were receiving occupational therapy. Per the most recent data available, in three years, Chicago had seen an increase of 20 percent, and Los Angeles has seen a 30 percent growth in just five years, up to 9,000 students.

Although occupational therapy is a relatively new medical field (formally named in 1920), it has dramatically grown to include patients of all ages who require myriad therapeutic services. As more research is done on occupational therapy, the benefits continue to grow.

OT in Schools

Although occupational therapists and occupational therapy assistants work with divers populations, including the elderly, quite a few work in pediatric occupational therapy. Many of these OTAs work with students with sensory processing disorder (SPD), autism spectrum disorder (ASD), or other special needs that can benefit from occupational therapy. Occupational therapy helps these students focus in the classroom and interact well with their fellow students, therefore allowing them to stay in classrooms with their fellow students instead of staying in a special education class throughout their education.

Occupational therapy assistants will work with students in the classroom, providing them with various techniques and treatments. Some students may wear a pressure vest, sit on a scooter or special chair, or do special exercises. The OT and OTAs may be hired by the school or work at a facility that sends them to the schools certain days of the week.

Why is OT in Schools Growing?

Although the OT field is generally young compared to other medical fields (it was first declared a field in 1920,) it is quickly growing and becoming much more recognized. Part of this is due to the rise in need for occupational therapy. Additionally, occupational therapy techniques are being found to benefit various patients, not just traditional pediatric and geriatric patients.

Autism Awareness Ribbon

Autism cases are on the rise throughout the world. However, this increase is due in no small part to the improved detection of autism. Researchers have found that the diagnostic criteria and the inclusion of out-of-hospital diagnoses are contributors to the rise in the overall number of autistic cases, as opposed to autism itself being on the rise.

Children diagnosed with ASD fall on a spectrum, as the name implies. While more extreme cases may require special education classrooms, many are able to interact with their fellow non-ASD students without some adjustments. Bringing in occupational therapists and occupational therapy assistants allow more of them to attend general classes.

The Benefit of Working in a School

Although the occupational therapy field typically allows for a traditional 9-to-5, Monday-through-Friday work schedule, some may work longer hours and on weekends. By working with pediatric patients in a school, you will be able to work on the school schedule. This is especially beneficial if you have children you want to be home with in the afternoons and evenings.

Working as an OTA or OT in schools also allows you to get the same breaks as the school system you are working in, including summer, winter, and spring break. You can either use this time to spend with your family, or you can work PRN, or pro re nata. This allows you to work as needed, picking up shifts when you want some extra hours. You can also look for a part-time position to fill in those summer and winter breaks.

Can OTAs Work in Other Settings?

Occupational therapy assistants are not limited to pediatric environments and schools, but can work in a variety of work settings. Some prefer working with geriatric patients, either in their homes or at a facility. Others prefer working solely with pediatric patients. More choose to work in a facility that treats young and old alike. There are several occupational therapy specialties, as our guest blogger specialized in treating stroke patients.

One thing is for sure- working as an OTA is rewarding and allows you to do something new every single day.

Want to learn more about occupational therapy? Speak to one of our admissions advisors today

outside shot of st. kate campus

The Ultimate Guide to Occupational Therapy and OTA

Get answers to your questions about the field, about the OTA career path, and about St. Catherine University’s Online OTA program.

book with cover title: Occupational Therapy Assistant Explained