Early Intervening Services and Response to Intervention
In the state of Texas, how are Occupational Therapists or Physical Therapists involved in RtI? Are there specific rules or laws regarding OT or PT and RtI for TEXAS?
Neither TEA nor our licensing boards (TBOTE and TBPTE) specifically address the role of OTs or PTs in RtI in Texas. However, familiarity with the TBOTE and TBPTE Rules will give you the answer. The Rules require an evaluation be performed before individual occupational therapy or physical therapy can be provided. There is no prohibition to contributing to early intervening services, such as in an RtI framework, but suggestions have to be kept general in nature. We coach our therapists to be responsive but very mindful of how they talk about strategies. For example, if a campus-based problem solving team asks the OT to participate and help with ideas on how to help a general education student who is distractible, you would start by saying, “I haven’t evaluated this student so I can’t recommend anything specific for him, but I can suggest a few strategies that seem to help many students with this problem.” Then you can talk about sitting in the front of the room, offering dynamic seating, decreasing the visual clutter, embedding more movement breaks, etc.
The other determining factor regarding OT or PT contributions to RtI is your administration. We have several districts in our area who love having OTs or PTs involved in RtI activities, helping to prevent unnecessary referrals to special education, but we also have some that do not want to use their therapists in that way. They are paying you, so they have the right to decide how to use your services. However, if you think your skills could help make a difference, you should advocate for a broader roll with general education. The AOTA has resources will help you do that, as does the Academy of Pediatric Physical Therapists (a section of APTA).
This upcoming school year my job is going to include RtI for fine motor and handwriting skills in Pre-K and Kindergarten classes in two elementary schools. Under the Texas OT Practice Act, as an OT working in General Education, I need to know if I am allowed to provide direct one-on-one service during the Tier 3 part of RtI in General Education?
Individual services must be based on an occupational therapy evaluation. Therefore, you would not be able to do direct one-on-one service unless an OT evaluation had been conducted. In schools, you would need to go through the 504 Committee or follow the process specified in IDEA Part B.
What about doing universal screenings for the entire class?
No problem, as it would not be service to an individual.
The district is offering me contract employment as the RtI specialist for Pre-K and Kindergarten students. My OT hat will be off when I work in this capacity. I will also be providing all 504 assessments and working with the 504 students who qualify. I will have 2 separate contracts; 1 for RtI only and 1 for OT providing 504 assessments and services. Now, my question is: Within Tier 3 of RtI, as the RtI specialist, could I provide individual assessments to the Pre-K and Kindergarten students to determine which skills are deficient (according to TEKS), then could I provide the individual instructional remediations to these students?
As long as you have 2 different job descriptions, and the RtI specialist qualifications could be from several different disciplines (teacher, OT, SLP, etc.), the answer is yes. Just make sure that when working at Tier 3 as an RtI specialist you always identify yourself in that way, and that everything you do is in terms of instructional strategies.
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