Special Education/OT question


My son has major sensory issues that interfere with school.  The school said they do not provide OT for sensory issues, only fine motor issues. Is this correct? It's weird because I know other kids in other schools getting services for this but maybe it's the school's option. Do you know anything about this? Thanks!!!!

Dear JH,

Thank you for your great question about school based occupational therapy services.  As you will see from the guide by the DOE in NY, occupational therapy includes sensory motor functioning and environmental adaptations.  


If the school based OT does an evaluation that does not properly consider your child's full needs, you may ask for a private evaluation to be paid at public expense.  But be careful, the school can say 'no' and take you to a hearing.  Or, if the private OT has done an evaluation and the school based OT will not acknowledge the sensory areas, you could go to a mediation, contact the district director of OT, file a complaint with the Office of Civil rights or the State, or go to a due process hearing.  Any of these may require guidance but you should not accept an OT saying 'we don't do sensory'.  

At the same time, sensory deficits alone are not defined as a disability under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, and OT is a related service.  So you will need to be prepared to show why your child's sensory issues must be addressed for him to receive a free appropriate public education, benefit from his special education program, make progress and access the curriculum.  

I certainly wish you the best as  you advocate for your child.  

Good luck!  

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Michelle R. Davis, M. Ed.


I can answer questions about disability definitions and criteria for services, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act 2004, No Child Left Behind, 504 plans, how to craft an IEP that drives the appropriate services, school placement, dispute options, and least restrictive environment. I worked in the public school system as a special educator and am now in private consulting practice where we assist parents as they navigate the special education process. I have expertise in all educational disabilities except blind/visual impairments and deaf/hard of hearing. This includes ADHD and other health impairments, medical conditions, dyslexia and learning disabilities, Autism, emotional disabilities, language processing problems, and interfering behaviors.


10 years as special educator and administrator in public school system; Director of ABCs for Life Success since 1998; Expert services such as analysis and testimony; Author: Special Needs Advocacy Resource Book: What you can do now to advocate for your exceptional child's education; Special Needs Advocacy Training Institute; internet radio show Teach Your Children Well: Hot Topics in Education; author School Success for Kids with Emotional and Behavioral Disorders released March 2010 (Prufrock Press).

Masters in Special Education with Emphasis on Inclusive Education (Johns Hopkins University); B.S.in Special Education (James Madison University); Conduct training for Universities, public and private schools, parent groups. Adjunct professor current George Washington University and prior George Mason University.

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