Going to school and becoming a student is a significant life event for children. School requires children to adopt multiple roles that enable them to "fit in" and enjoy themselves for most of their pre-adult lives. Children are workers, learners, players, and self-carers at various times throughout the day. Referrals to occupational therapy services may occur when children are having difficulty engaging in a learner's role. For example, an occupational therapist may work with children who exhibit disordered handwriting or written expression.
School is often considered a child's first workplace as it prepares them for future roles. Children quickly learn behaviours expected of them depending on the context, such as "desk work" and "group work." Occupational therapists work with children, parents and teachers to improve a child's participation in their work role at school. Often, therapists will examine the contextual and performance elements that influence a child's participation and adapt school environments to enable children to experience school work.
In addition to learner and worker roles, school is one of the first environments where many children learn about socially organized play. Children look forward to playing with their peers and recognize that it a source of social contact, pleasure and an opportunity for personal expression. Occupational therapists may work with children who experience difficulties engaging in play. For example, therapists may assist children with physical or social disabilities so that their environment is conducive to play, minimizing their condition's impact.
School is a setting where many young children become proficient with self-care skills such as eating, dressing, personal hygiene and toileting. Occupational therapists may have essential roles in schools supporting a child's engagement in self-care occupations.
Reference: Lane, Shelly J., and Anita C. Bundy. Kids Can Be Kids: A Childhood Occupations Approach. F.A. Davis, 2011.