Should I Be a School-Based OT or a Clinical OT?
Undecided about whether you want to practice in a school or clinical setting? Here are similarities and differences about the two approaches to help guide your decision.
Differences Between School-Based and Clinic-Based Occupational Therapy
School-based and clinic-based pediatric OT are similar in many ways. They are both designed to help children perform daily activities and reach individualized goals. They both use tools, training, techniques, interventions, accommodations, modifications and the like to achieve those goals.
However, there are a few differences:
|School-based Occupational Therapy…||Clinic-based Pediatric Occupational Therapy…|
|Uses an educational model focused on academic performance||Uses a medical model focused on all aspects of daily living|
|Starts with a referral from a physician or other medical professional||Starts with a referral from a physician or other medical professional|
|Is provided at no cost to the family||Is paid for out of pocket or through insurance|
|Is governed by the U.S. Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and each student’s Individualized Education Program (IEP) or 504 Plan||May or may not require a prescription, depending on state law|
|Is delivered at school or out of school for hospital- or home-bound students||Is delivered in clinics, hospitals, home health settings, etc.|
What It’s Like to Be an OT at a School Versus a Clinic
Both school-based OTs and clinic-based pediatric OTs get to work with children. They help clients at a critical stage of development and can make impacts that last a lifetime.
There are, however, some differences in the way they deliver these life-changing OT services:
|School-Based OTs…||Clinic-Based, Pediatric OTs..|
|May have a larger caseload and less time for administrative tasks Often have fewer clients and more time for administrative tasks||Often have fewer clients and more time for administrative tasks|
|Can enjoy working school hours and having holidays and summers off||Typically work year-round during regular work hours|
|See students during one-on-one, small group and classroom settings Often work one-on-one with clients||Often work one-on-one with clients|
|Focus on tasks like pencil grip, writing, keyboarding, taking turns, playing games and sports, organization, social skills, behavioral skills, chair posture, balance, motor planning, etc.||Focus on tasks like eating, dressing, tying shoes, brushing teeth, playing, toileting, social skills, behavioral skills, balance, motor planning, etc.|
|Work closely with teams that include parents, teachers, special education professionals, PTs, SLPs, APE teachers, behavior specialists, assistive technology specialists, administrators, etc.||May work alongside OTs, PTs, SLPs, behavior specialists, medical professionals, etc.|
|Have access to OT tools and equipment owned by the school or district||May have access to more advanced equipment, depending on the facility|
|Are most successful when they can navigate various fast-paced tasks, collaborate well with parents and IEP teams, generate creative OT solutions for students’ challenges, and come up with activities that match the curriculum||Are most successful when they can focus intensively during one-on-one sessions, work well with parents and other providers, generate creative OT solutions for clients’ challenges, consider each child holistically and focus on all aspects of their lives|
School OT Jobs
Is the school-based setting for you? If you want to make a difference in students' lives and embark on a meaningful adventure as a school-based OT, start by exploring our OT jobs today!