Occupational Therapists’ Role in Supporting Students with Reading Disabilities

Date of Award

Spring 5-8-2021

Document Type

Oral Presentation/Poster

Degree Name

Doctor of Occupational Therapy (OTD)


Health Science

Faculty Mentor

Dr. Shana Cerny

Subject Categories

Occupational Therapy


The purpose of this capstone project was to create a framework for school-based occupational therapists to support the dyslexic student. Many school-based occupational therapists treat children with learning disabilities for deficits in motor planning and visual perceptual/motor skills; however, reading skills are often overlooked despite being included in the Occupational Therapy Practice Framework, 4th Eds ( AOTA, 2020). Occupational therapists have extensive training to understand how to address neurological dysfunction in school-aged children. Functional MRI (fMRI) scans have documented brain changes in the parietal, occipital, and temporal lobes of individuals with dyslexia, thus providing evidence of a neurological signature for dyslexia (Olulade, 2015). Despite varying theories for cause and treatment options for dyslexia, it appears that an integrated approach that supports visual motor skills, visual perceptual skills, phonemic awareness, and motor planning have demonstrated the most success. Further, other evidence suggests that addressing reflex integration and underlying sensory integration dysfunction can support that dyslexic student (McPhillips, 2000). Occupational therapists have the knowledge and training to address all the aforementioned skills. Therapists can apply their training to support the underlying neurological dysfunction that may impact reading skills, and thus provide a stable foundation for the development of reading skills. Theoretical frames of andragogy, sensory integration and visual perceptual were utilized in the development and implementation of this two day educational workshop. Learning outcomes and course effectiveness were assessed by pre and posttest questionnaires and course evaluation forms.

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