Exploring the experiences of school-based therapists who assign tasks to educational paraprofessionals

Angela Chin

Background: School-based therapists routinely assign tasks to educational paraprofessionals. Increasingly this includes supporting children with medical complexity, but with little to guide assignment practice.

Purpose: This descriptive study examines occupational therapists’ and physical therapists’ perceptions of transferring function in schools.

Methods: One therapist completed an in-depth interview and nine therapists participated in focus group discussions. Interpretative phenomenological analysis was used to explore transcript data.

Findings: Analysis yielded four themes which are described under the broad headings: 1) collaboration is the cornerstone of success; (2) assignment is unique in school settings; (3) assignment can be waylaid by common pitfalls; and (4) moving forward for best practice.

Conclusion: Collaborative consultation is integral to delegation and has implications for successful assignment in school settings. Clear practice guidelines are needed to better aid school-based therapists’ decisions to assign work to educational paraprofessionals. Recommendations are made to improve the safety and effectiveness of assignment.