This year, I took a travel contract where I’d be working exclusively in the high school setting. I was both excited and nervous about this prospect – I’d worked with high schoolers before, but the vast majority of my experience as a school-based OT was with elementary and middle. Plus, I’d long been a proponent of school-based OT not being a “forever service,” and had gotten into a good routine of discharge planning with parents at the same time I was recommending services. And I definitely wasn’t really sure what high school OT assessment looked like.
So, understandably, I was worried that a caseload of only high schoolers would be a bunch of kids who still had handwriting goals on their IEP despite evidence pointing to the fact that digital accommodations would be the more appropriate path forward. At the same time, I was excited about getting to develop a robust program all on my own and help develop standards for the department.
What I found was a job that I liked so much more than I thought I would – seriously, I’m hesitant to go back to elementary now and I LOVE that age group. What I also found was that assessment of this age group was tricky, with very few standardized assessments available that really capture what functional school skills look like for these kids. I was also intimidated because the district I’m working for has highly involved parents, many of whom have hired special education advocates and lawyers to help them get the best IEP possible. I knew that if I was making a recommendation to decrease or even exit OT services, I would have to have the data to back it up, and I would have to have written it in a clear and legally-defensible format.
High School OT Assessment
So over this year, I’ve spent a lot of time developing and refining my eval template for this age group. I’m happy to report that I’ve already done 20+ assessments on a variety of students all the way from highly intelligent students with autism taking AP classes, to adult students in our transition program planning to enter supported living. The template is easily modifiable to any student at this age level. The best part? All of those parents that I was worried about disagreeing with my clinical recommendations really haven’t. And while I can’t give all the credit to the template, I think it does help to have a student’s functional skills laid out in a clear and easily digestible format. It helps us come together as a team to figure out what it is the student really needs – even if that isn’t necessarily more school-based OT services.
If you’d like to try this template too, I’ve created a robust version that has all of the sections filled out with multiple choice. You can edit it to suit your needs! It also includes clinical reasoning blurbs for why to pick up/not pick up a student, an occupational profile, and 21 of the most common accommodations I’ve recommended. You can download it along with my other grade-level separated assessment templates here.
I really hope this high school OT assessment template is helpful to you! Please feel free to leave feedback on what you think. Can you think of any other resources that you would find useful to your job as a school-based OT?