Occupational therapists in the educational process of children with special educational needs

The work of occupational therapists in the educational process of children with special educational needs


SOUTO, B.A1; MELO, L.C1; MORIMOTO, S.Y.U1; CALDAS, M.M.M1; SILVA, H.J.F1.

Federal University of Pernambuco


Research Journal of Pharmacology and Pharmacy-2d Code

Most of the times, a school is a place where children find a safe environment in which they share experiences with other children, through a sense of trust transmitted by adults. However, this place usually does not seem to support the human plurality existing in this context, which characterizes their clientele. Nonetheless, students suffering from issues related to the learning process, possibly caused by family problems, incompatibility with teaching methods, a reflection of sociocultural conditions, besides difficulties related to writing, social interaction, attention spectrum, beginning and ending of activities, self-expression and alertness, for example, are often labelled as problematic students. This is not justifiable, given the fact that we are unique beings and, by nature, different from each other. Thus, there is a need for schools to offer a friendly environment to facilitate the learning process of those individuals and the development of their abilities. Therefore, institutions must therefore promote physical repairs in their structures, invest in better training for professionals, in addition to counting with occupational therapists to facilitate the learning process. Initially, the occupational therapist worked in education only through “special education” aimed at people with special needs. Following Brazil’s participation on meetings from the World Health Organization (WHO), focused on the school environment for people with special needs, changes were made in legislations, which were no longer unidirectional, but multidirectional, starting to take into account different approaches for teaching and learning. That way, the intervention from a therapist aims to integrate the entire context that involves a children’s daily life, working as not only an extension to rehabilitation services, but starting to consider both the family and the school, as well as the patient itself. In summary, the objective of this study was to characterize the performance of occupational therapists in schools, more specifically with children with special educational needs. A literature review was carried out on the following journals: Revista de Terapia Ocupacional da USP and Cadernos de Terapia Ocupacional da UFSCar, published in Portuguese, including papers from 2007 to 2015. The terms used for research were as follows: school, occupational therapy, disabled child, learning disability. The majority of studies focuses reflecting on the importance of inclusive school occupational therapy. However, there is a lack of studies that discuss the daily-life of this technique, in other words, a practical description on how to conduct this intervention in schools. The occupational therapist works as an articulator, necessary among all involved in a child’s learning process, managing that by working together with other professionals. When there is this link between bodies of knowledge from different areas related to learning, the ones involved on the educational process notice a reduction on the sense of frustration and inability when, by chance, certain scholar objectives are not met. By acting this way, professionals aim to collaborate with three aspects that refer to the improvement of a child’s capacity to register, process and integrate information. The occupational therapist makes use of a wide range of methods to intervene on the school environment. It acts mainly by guiding families, teachers, management professionals and even students on matters of inclusion in schools and on how to approach this human plurality inside the school context. It also uses trainings from daily-life activities, considers the benefits that arise from the use of assistive technology, thus observing the psychomotor development in children. Also, it uses specific tasks that can be addressed to each student in a unique way, aiming to improve its alertness and stimulate its concentration in exercises that promote learning, facilitating interpersonal abilities and improving its self-esteem, self-expression and social interaction. Consequently, it is possible to notice that the performance of an occupational therapist in the educational context is not new, being applied since the 1960s, although its intervention only became strong in recent years, what can be justified by the greater availability of technological resources as tools to enforce interactions. Nevertheless, even though this work held by occupational therapists has advanced in schools, it is still possible to notice several obstacles and challenges to be overcome, such as the inadequate preparation of institutions, not only in its structures, but also on their teaching staff, time limitations for the professional to work, as well as the frequent lack of family cooperation. It is important to highlight that the occupational therapist must not to be mistaken with an educator, since the first does not have domain over pedagogical matters discussed in classes. That being said, its objectives are to enrich interactions on the social, cultural, physical and institutional environments, searching for solutions to problems faced on a daily basis, and working towards reaching the success of each student in a regular school, guiding the student to acquire what it needs and hopes for. In this context, the interaction between a therapist and a patient is an alliance that determines a goal to be achieved. This relationship includes interests that must involve values and self-concept, reaching a mutual respect between both, so that the final result is common and efficient. Thus, the work of an occupational therapist in schools is not clinical. It is not related to specific aspects nor related to reviewing pedagogical matters, but it is actually a work developed along with educators, students, families and other professionals, by getting to know each patient’s difficulties. This work is held at schools and its final objective relates to children’s performance. It is then necessary that the occupational therapist tries to act in an equal manner to other professionals, parents and guardians, thus facilitating the decision-making process regarding children. It becomes clear that the occupational therapeutical application in the school context is favouring students development, as well as contributing to those that are part of their social network, since it facilitates the interaction between school, student and family. However, by observing that the work of the occupational therapist is still not sufficiently widespread in this context, it becomes necessary to promote greater discussions on the matter. Additionally, more attention is required on the lack of adequate training for professionals to deal with the diversity which is present in educational institutions, besides the lack of material resources, which also makes it harder to apply occupational therapy methods in schools.


Keywords: School Health, Occupational Therapy, Disabled Children, Learning

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