School-based occupational therapists work with children to help them reach their academic potential. Therapists that think they may be a good fit for school-based therapy should consider several factors before making the leap.
- Think about the differences between working as a school-based OT and working in other settings, such as a hospital or nursing home. Working as a school-based OT is different than working in an acute care hospital or rehab center. Hospital-based therapists use a medical model when treating patients, which means they focus on the diagnosis. School OTs use an educational model, which means the focus is on helping children overcome challenges that affect academics and education.
- Consider whether you prefer to work with people with a wide range of conditions and diagnoses. When you work in a hospital, you are likely to treat people with a large variety of conditions, such as head injuries, strokes, and dementia. Although children in schools may also have varied conditions, working in a hospital setting usually provides more diversity in diagnoses. Do you think you would get bored working with children that all had the same diagnosis, such as autism spectrum disorders or downs syndrome?
- What makes you feel most satisfied in an occupational therapy job? There is no right or wrong answer to what you enjoy most about working as an occupational therapist. Some people prefer a fast-paced environment or working with an active population. Other therapists are most satisfied if they can work with patients for a long time and see the impact they are having. School-based therapists often work with the same children for the school year. Hospital therapists often see patients for only a short time. Hospital work is also a little less predictable. New patients are admitted all the time. School-based work may be a bit more structured and predictable. Think about what suits you best.
- Decide if there is a population of children you especially prefer to work with. Children that receive occupational therapy may have varying degrees of challenges from minor learning problems to profound disabilities. Think about your strengths and weaknesses when deciding if you’re a good match for working with certain students. Also, consider what population you’re most interested in treating. Deciding on your niche helps you find the right position.
- Think about what age group you prefer to work with. If you’re convinced working in a school-setting is right for you, consider what age group you prefer. School occupational therapists work with students from preschool age to about 21 years old. Do you have an age group you are most interested in working with?
- Ask yourself what type of schedule you are hoping to work. Before you start applying for school-based occupational therapy jobs, consider what kind of work schedule you prefer. Some schools are on a traditional schedule with summers off. Other programs are year-round with time off scheduled throughout the year.
Narrowing down what you want in an occupational therapy job may help you find the right position for your goals, interests, and likes. What do you think is the most important thing to consider when looking for an OT job?