Support Services



Pittsylvania County Schools:

A Great Place to Learn and Work!

P.O. Box 232 • 39 Bank Street, SE 
Chatham, Virginia 24531  
Telephone:  (434) 432-2761 • 1-888-440-6520 • Fax: (434) 432-9560

Occupational Therapy

About Us  | Understanding Educational and Clinical Models
Teacher Tool Box  |  Apps! |  Sensory Strategies | Support Home

About Us
Our department incorporates two Related Services ‘Teams’ – the Occupational Therapy/OT Team and the Physical Therapy/PT Team.

The student's school-based therapy needs should directly relate to and support his or her academic program. It is the role of the Occupational Therapist (OT) or Physical Therapist (PT) to work closely with all members of the school team to identify and create solutions and/or adaptations that assist students to participate as fully as possible in their school setting. OTs and PTs provide a unique perspective of a student based on their specialized knowledge in child development, motor learning and task performance. OTs and PTs are trained to provide many types of developmental services as well as conduct assessments related to a student's functional skills in the educational environment.

“Related services” are supportive services required to assist a child with a disability to fully access their special education curriculum. Both physical and occupational therapy are related services.  Related services may also include other developmental, corrective, or supportive services if they are required to assist a child with a disability to benefit from special education.  OT/PT are not determined through eligibility or ineligibility for special education services. These services must be acknowledged by the IEP committee and considered at the IEP meeting.


Occupational and physical therapy services are provided only when a student is unable to benefit from special education without these services. Goals may be academic in nature while other goals will focus on functional performance in the school environment.

The OT/PT must be an active participant in the decision making process when determining whether or not a student may qualify for the related service of occupational or physical therapy.
The IEP team must decide if the student requires OT and/or PT to benefit from his or her special education program. 

The evidence of a delay or medical condition does not necessarily mandate therapy services. The student’s needs, as identified by IEP goals, are the driving force for service determination.

As educational team members, therapists work closely with teachers, families, and the student to identify solutions and implement strategies that help students participate in their educational program.

In an educational setting, Occupational and Physical Therapy services are geared toward ensuring that qualifying students benefit from special education in the least restrictive environment.

What Is School Based Occupational and/or Physical Therapy? What is the difference between the educational and clinical models?
Occupational and physical therapists are equally trained and licensed no matter where they work, but the missions of the agency, school, or clinic where the therapists work are often very different. Therefore, the type and goals of therapy may be very different from one setting to another. It’s important to understand the different delivery and outcomes of different models of therapy.

There are two primary models of occupational and physical therapy for children: clinical and educational. The basic purpose behind each of these models is different, although they can overlap. 

Children can receive services through one or both models. An IEP is a fluid document, it can and should change to respond to both students’ needs and ensure least restrictive environment for the student.  For some children the frequency or intensity of therapy they receive at school through the educational model will not meet all therapy needs.  A child may have therapy needs outside the school setting that would require home- or community-based services from the medical model. 






• Teacher, parent or other involved person can ask the IEP team to consider the need for evaluation

• Referral is initiated by physician based on observed delay or diagnosis


• IEP team consensus with recommendation from licensed OT/PT based on testing and classroom/campus observation

•Assessment takes into consideration only needs associated with special education program

• Testing and clinical observation by licensed OT/PT

• Assessment takes all settings into consideration

• Frequently driven by doctor’s orders


• To contribute  knowledge and data to the IEP team for discussion and decisions

• Helps to identify areas of strengths and needs

• Helps to guide goals

• To determine need for services

• Helps to identify areas of strengths and needs

• Helps to guide goals


• IEP team—including parents, student (if appropriate), educators, administrators and school based therapists—determine the focus, frequency and duration of therapy

• A doctor’s order does not drive decisions about school therapy services

• Services are collaborative

• Medical team determines location, focus, frequency and duration of therapy. 

• Insurance coverage, doctor’s orders and transportation may be determining factors

• Services tend to be discipline based.


• Changes to related services require an IEP meeting with parents, educators, administrators and the school based therapist present to discuss and come to consensus

• Doctors can alter orders or therapist can change therapy plan, generally discussed with doctor and parents


•Therapy addresses access to special education and school environment

• Works toward independence and participation


• Therapy addresses medical conditions and impairments

• Works to get full potential realized



• On school grounds, bus, halls, playground, classroom, lunchroom; total school environment

• In the clinic, hospital or home


• Integrated/inclusive therapy, staff training, program development, collaboration with staff, group intervention, direct one-on-one treatments, consultation

•Strategies and responsibilities are often taught and delegated to teachers, aides and others.

• Direct one-on-one treatment to accomplish set goals

•Few responsibilities are delegated, except to parents.


• No cost to student or family = free and appropriate public education (FAPE)

• Fee-for-service payment by family, insurance or governmental assistance.

Teacher Tool Box
Teachers:  We are here to be a support to you.  The resources you will find here are general in nature and not meant to replace direct therapy services, however we recognize that many of the tools we recommend and/or use in therapy can be applicable to all classrooms and for all students, regardless of having a disability or not.  Not every recommendation or tool works the same way for everyone and research is key to make the best choice for your own purposes!

Pencil grips/Adapted Writing Tools:

*For children who press too hard when writing, consider the use of mechanical pencils to assist the child in learning how to grade the amount of pressure they are using.

Adapted paper:

Handwriting resources:

Fine Motor Activities

The following list consists of fine motor activities to improve grasping, in-hand manipulation, and hand/finger strength:

  • shuffle cards, deal cards one by one, flip cards over
  • pick up coins and flip them over without bringing them to the edge of the table
  • screw and unscrew nuts and bolts, caps on jars
  • play travel size board games with tiny pieces
  • use clothespins to move game pieces in board games (ie. pick up pawns in "Sorry" or "Perfection" puzzle pieces with a clothespin rather than using your fingers)
  • string small beads onto a string
  • practice cupping hand to roll dice
  • clip clothespins on a clothesline tear strips of newspaper; crumple newspaper into a small ball
  • fold paper; make origami
  • use scissors to cut coupons
  • pick up small objects (cotton balls, pom poms) with tweezers and olive pickers
  • hide small objects (ie. pennies, beads, Lite Brite pegs) in playdough or silly putty and have your child try to retrieve them (you can make it fun by having them try to find as many items as they can in a minute)
  • trace objects using stencils
  • sharpen a pencil manually
  • roll playdough "snakes," or roll small balls and flick across the table with your fingers to play "finger soccer"
  • play with pop beads
  • ring out a wet sponge
  • punch holes with a hole puncher
  • water plants/wash windows with a spray bottle
  • make an art project with an eye dropper

Fine motor Toys/Games

  • Pick up sticks

  • Kerplunk

  • Dice games

  • Operation

  • Bed Bugs

  • Wok-n-Roll

  • Zoob

  • Ants in the Pants

  • Don't Spill the Beans

  • Legos

  • Etch-a-Sketch

  • Lite Brite

  • Get a Grip

  • Pop beads

  • Scatterpillar Scramble

  • Tricky Tree

  • High-Ho Cherry-O

Visual Motor/Visual Perception Games and Activities

The following list consists of several activities to improve visual motor/visual perception:

  • Jigsaw puzzles
  • Rush Hour game
  • Connect the dots
  • Paint by numbers
  • Trace letters/shapes
  • Word search puzzles
  • crossword puzzles
  • Look and find worksheets (Hidden Pictures)
  • Mazes
  • Make-n-Break
  • Square Up
  • Tangoes
  • I Spy Eagle Eye; I Spy Go Fish
  • Tricky Fingers
  • Perfection

Sensory/Self -Regulation:
Some children are easily over-stimulated or distracted by sounds, others by touch or visual stimulation. Some need motion – of their hands, legs, or mouth for example – to focus their attention. All need an appropriate environment, including proper seating. Tool Chest: For Teachers, Parents & Students provides 26 fun, practical activities to assist children in developing their optimal range for paying attention, performing fine motor skills, improving self-esteem, and more. This self-guided handbook is easy for teachers and parents to use in the classroom and at home.


Assistive and adaptive technology have always been tools employed by OT’s to improve independence. In recent years, electronic devices have increasingly been used by therapists as an administrative, intervention as well as assistive tool. Although they are never to be the object of therapy, electronic devices have the potential of being used as an intervention, assistive tool or cognitive aid for students. Furthermore, many apps are now designed to facilitate and support the development of many skills that we address through occupational therapy.  Here you will find technology tools and resources that support therapists in improving the functional capabilities of our students.

Handwriting App List

Visual Motor Apps

Sensory Strategies

Below you will find our favorite tools and tips to help kids with sensory issues stay calm, organized and focused in school.

Exercise Bands:  Place the band around the front legs of students' chairs so that they can place their feet behind the band while seated and stretch it forward. This gives them input and helps with the fidgets!

Squeeze Balls

Headphones or Ear Buds:   Play calming music during stressful noisy times, such as riding the bus, in the lunchroom, or in the classroom when trying to encourage independent work. Limiting auditory input will decrease the brain's processing requirements and distractibility, and will encourage focus on task. When a child is required to process sounds from different areas of the environment, it increases the requirement for modulation.

Water bottles with Sipping Tops: Keep the bottle on the child's table to be used whenever he or she wants. This can be implemented easily, and is also healthy.

: It's small, can be placed in strategic spots (underside of desk or chair, student's pocket, bottom of ruler or pencil box), is virtually undetectable to peers, easy to obtain and install, and inexpensive.

Wiggle Cushions: 
These now can be purchased very inexpensively wherever exercise equipment is sold.   Teachers may wish just to keep them on a shelf in the room for any student to try. Most do, but only the kids who need it to regulate continue with it. Because all can try it, it is not a 'special ed' thing for those who benefit from it.

Movement Breaks:   Promoting movement breaks for all students in the class throughout the day not only helps our kiddos, but every student to regulate their neurological system.

Alternate Seating: 
Seating options that are not too expensive and easy to try: move-n-sit cushion, disco sit, rocking chair, beanbag chair and a clipboard for writing. Works well for students who seek movement and have difficulty remaining seated during instruction.

Deep Breathing & Yoga:
This helps the students to calm down and works on stretching their muscles and core muscle strength.

Sugarless Chewing Gum: It provides proprioceptive input . A great tool for focus and writing!
Quiet Classroom Corner
Any child in the classroom can use it, which makes the child who needs it most not feel singled out. Once these kids get into the habit of sitting in the beanbag reading corner or working at the study carrel, they start to ask permission to go.

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Last update: Monday, November 20, 2017 03:05 PM