According to the Institut de la statistique du Québec, more than one in four children start kindergarten with at least one developmental delay1. Occupational therapy can make a real difference in the success of these children. In schools, occupational therapists help students improve their performance in activities essential to academic success.
“For example, in the case of preschoolers who have trouble getting dressed, holding a pencil, drawing, organizing their school materials, staying focused, we can suggest meaningful activities, different postures, alternative classroom configurations, and times to move around,” explains occupational therapist Maryse Cloutier2. “We can also teach the steps of scissor skills and handwriting.”
School occupational therapists intervene directly in the student’s living and learning environments, taking the child’s physical, sensory, perceptive, cognitive, affective, and social dimensions into consideration.
Every adult around the child are involved in the process. “When parents, teachers, and other school, medical, and community workers work towards the same goal, a child’s chances of success are greater,” adds Maryse Cloutier.
A scarce resource
Fewer than 20 school boards in Québec have occupational therapists on staff. Yet, they are widely employed in schools throughout the rest of Canada and the U.S.
Maryse Cloutier stresses that occupational therapy is best when integrated early on. “Early intervention is crucial. It’s not as effective if you wait until the child is in grade 6,” she explains. “If there were more occupational therapists in schools, we could prevent significant issues that often lead to failure, a student’s decreased self-esteem, and even dropping out.”
1 INSTITUT DE LA STATISTIQUE DU QUÉBEC (2018). Enquête québécoise sur le développement des enfants à la maternelle 2017 : portrait statistique pour le Québec et ses régions administratives, [Online] (October), 123 p.
2 Maryse Cloutier is a member of the Syndicat des professionnelles et professionnels du milieu de l’éducation de Montréal (SPPMEM-CSQ).