Moira P. Bushell, OTD, MEd, OTR/L, BCP, Aspire OT Instructor, Guest Blog Author

Why is It Important for Occupational Therapy Practitioners to Understand the Federal Laws that Impact Practice in Schools?

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Welcome to guest blogger!

Moira P. Bushell, OTD, MEd, OTR/L, BCP

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I have worked in school-based practice for over a decade in several districts with many different professionals. My practice has evolved as I changed age groups, program types and learned more about the practice area. However, one area of knowledge that I have found most helpful and can be applied to my everyday work, is federal law and how it impacts daily practice. I am more confident about my choices of assessments and interventions because of my understanding of these laws and how my practice fits within them. I am able to make decisions that are tied to educational necessity or are supported by the scope of practice that these laws provide for occupational therapy practitioners.

These laws are the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). IDEA and ADA are familiar to most as these are more apparent in everyday practice. Whether it is creating intervention plans based on special education evaluations, writing IEP goals, or identifying accommodations for a 504 plan, these laws significantly impact occupational therapy practice. Understanding their role and implementation is critical within this practice setting.

ESSA is less known to occupational therapy practitioners but is no less important. It is the national education law that guides all K-12 education in the United States. It provides a broader scope of practice within schools for occupational therapy practitioners as it solidifies our role in supporting all students through a Multi-Tier System of Supports, of which Response to Intervention is a piece. ESSA gives us a seat at the table when education decisions are made at the school, district, and state levels.

Through my knowledge of these laws, I have been able to expand the impact of my practice beyond single student services. I have supported school-wide social-emotional initiatives, created calming spaces in classrooms, and educated teachers on trauma-informed practices. As I continue to grow, I hope to continue to educate all occupational therapy practitioners about how we can expand our impact in the school setting and take our seat at the table.
Guest Blogger Bio
Moira P. Bushell, OTD, MEd, OTR/L, BCP
Aspire OT Instructor
Moira P. Bushell OTD, MEd, OTR/L has been working as a school based occupational therapist for 10+ years. Her vast experience with program facilitation and passion for education make her an excellent advocate for children. As an AOTA Emerging Leader, she focused on pediatric occupational therapy practice advocacy as it relates to federal and state education law and knowledge translation. She has made numerous presentations about education law, its implication for occupational therapy practice and integration of Tier 1 services into the classroom environment. Within school setting practice, her expertise includes creating inclusive environments for all learners and supporting those with students with behavioral concerns. She currently serves the Illinois Occupational Therapy Association and American Occupational Therapy Association in multiple volunteer roles. 

Check out moira's self-paced course

School-based Goals for OT Practitioners: Writing Strength-Based, Measurable, Collaborative, and Participation-focused Goals for Students

1.5 Contact hours, 0.15 CEUs 
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