What is an Itinerant Orthopedic Impairment Teacher?

November 1, 2017 3 min read

In this blog post, I will answer a question I hear often: What is an Itinerant Orthopedic Impairment Teacher? Some OI teachers have their own classroom which contains students with orthopedic impairments, but this will be about itinerant OI teachers, meaning those serve students of all ages in different school settings. For example, I serve 7+ school districts in a rural area and I can drive 130 miles or more in a day. (However, sometimes I only drive 10 miles if the district is close to where I live.)

Whenever I explain my job as an itinerant orthopedic impairment (OI) teacher many in the education field assume that I am an occupational therapist. While the duties of orthopedic impairment (OI) specialists/teachers and occupational therapists (OT) do overlap a little, there are some important differences. The descriptions below are my experience and may not represent where you work (many places do not have itinerant OI teachers). I often work and collaborate with OTs to provide the best services for our students.

One of the main differences is that occupational therapists come from the medical/therapy field. They know a lot more about the physical body. OI teachers come from education and are credentialed teachers so they know a lot more about the curriculum. Often they have a background as a special ed teacher.

Below are some more things to consider about how OTs and OI teachers are different. However, I am certain that both services will vary differently between districts and states, so be sure to find out what the services are like in your area. I’m pretty sure OTs are in all states, however, OI teachers are not.

Similarities with Occupational Therapists (OT)

  • Supports kids in all gen ed and special ed settings
  • Handwriting and cutting skills (academic fine motor)
  • Positioning/seating
  • Contracted by districts
  • Might use the same fine motor assessments (i.e. BOT-2)
  • Can serve the same student
  • Might be itinerant
  • Serve kids birth to 21

How an Itinerant Orthopedic (OI) Teacher is Unique

  • OI can be a stand-alone service (which means that OI teachers can be IEP case managers)
  • Focuses on access to general ed curriculum (accommodations, equipment, etc.)
  • Only serves students who have a medical diagnosis of OI
  • Can provide adaptive equipment/materials via low incidence funding
  • Supportive seating for academics
  • Teaches keyboarding skills
  • Evaluate/implements communication output (AAC) for academic success

How an Occupational Therapist (OT) is Unique

  • Provides therapy (fine motor and gross motor)
  • Is not a stand-alone service (OTs are not IEP case managers)
  • Focuses on functional fine motor and ADLs (activities of daily living)
  • Medical/developmental model
  • Toileting services
  • Serves all students with physical, cognitive and mental health disabilities
  • Works on concentration, staying on task, organization skills
  • Works on sensory, visual and perception issues
  • Typically doesn’t have a budget to buy equipment (i.e. slant boards, supportive seating)

Final Thoughts

I have learned from being on teacher Facebook groups that not all counties or states have itinerant orthopedic impairment teachers. Some districts rely on occupational therapists, or even assistive technology specialists. And the role of any teacher and/or specialist can vary from county to county, sometimes even district to district. So, please know that what I’ve described here has been my experience. In addition, we all know education changes constantly! As time goes by, there are changes in teaching credentials/certificates, or even a change of focus. This blog post has provided a snapshot of an itinerant orthopedic impairment teacher at this time.

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