Collaboration within a curriculum of support in the classroom: occupational therapists' and educators' perceptions and experiences
Keywords:Inclusive education, Learning barriers, Classroom approach, Trans-disciplinary collaboration, Mainstream school, Qualitative research
Introduction: According to South Africa's key education policies, all children can learn and need support, necessitating collaboration between occupational therapists and educators. Collaboration between occupational therapists and educators within the classroom is however a relatively new practice in South Africa and there is a dearth of literature that report on studies in this regard. The aim of this study was thus to explore occupational therapists' and educators' experiences in adopting a classroom approach in three primary mainstream schools in the Metro North education district in the Western Cape. Methodology: A qualitative research approach and
exploratory descriptive design was utilised. Data collection included semi-structured interviews and focus groups with educators and occupational therapists who participated in the curriculum of support in the classroom programme. Thematic data analysis was conducted. Findings: Three themes highlighting the meaning and value the participants assigned to classroom collaboration, and
factors that facilitate or limit the implementation of the curriculum of support emerged from the analysis. Conclusion: The study is useful in expanding the understanding of the changing role of occupational therapists within the context of inclusive education and contributes to the development of educator support strategies utilising the whole classroom approach. This approach entails the educator and occupational therapist working together in implementing activities in the classroom to all learners. These learning activities are based on curriculum themes and occupational therapy principles and components. IMPLICATIONS FOR PRACTICE Occupational therapists' roles in the education practice context are expanding from traditionally working in special school settings to providing support to educators within public mainstream schools. The role of the occupational therapist within public mainstream schools is evolving from a consultative role and providing input into the individual support of learners to providing hands-on support to educators and collaborating with them within the classroom.
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