Akron occupational therapist

OTR vs. COTA: Choosing the Best Akron Occupational Therapist for Your Child

April is Occupational Therapy Month. Children who need the assistance of an  Akron occupational therapist may be diagnosed with any number of conditions, from down syndrome to autism spectrum disorder to traumatic injury. The goal of a pediatric occupational therapist is to help kids who struggle with everyday tasks due to poor motor skills. This can include tasks that are a part of learning and functioning well at school, home and recreation – anything from handwriting to walking to zipping their coats to staying on task.

As providers of occupational therapy to children in Akron, Cleveland, Brecksville and Broadview Heights, we are occasionally asked what is the difference between an “OTR” and a “COTA.” These are two different titles you may see after the names of your Akron occupational therapist.

Essentially, it comes down to education and training, though there are also differences in responsibilities too. OT(R) stands for Registered Occupational Therapist. Registration only happens after an occupational therapist passes the state boards following graduate school. It requires at least a 2.5-3-year Master’s or Doctorate degree in occupational therapy.

It’s not unheard of for experienced OTs to have a bachelor’s degree in occupational therapy, but those programs were largely phased out some years ago.

COTA, on the other hand, stands for Certified Occupational Therapy Assistant. To be a COTA, one must have a two-year associate’s degree.

Graduates of all programs are required to successfully demonstrate entry-level practice competency through 24 weeks of mentored practice experience, per AOTA.

Responsibilities of an OTR vs. COTA

Registered occupational therapists are responsible to perform patient evaluations, create plans of care (with goals), complete progress notes, process discharges and provide patient treatment.

COTAs, meanwhile, will be responsible to follow the plan of care set by the OTR. They’ll carry out treatment (interventions) aligned with the patient’s goals, as set by the OTR. They won’t be responsible for patient evaluations, plans of care or discharge paperwork, though they may be responsible to take detailed notes regarding what they worked on with the patient and the outcomes. This helps the OTR to determine whether certain interventions are working or whether there need to be updates to approaches or goals.

How an Akron Occupational Therapist Can Help Your Child

What’s important for our clients at Therapy & Wellness Connection to understand is that whether their child is being treated by an OTR or a COTA, they are going to be receiving treatment from someone who cares about these kids and is passionate about their work. Not every occupational therapist has the heart to work with children – and that’s Ok – but we are committed to hiring and keeping only those who do. While it’s essential that each therapist be competent and qualified, they must also be caring and compassionate.

Lots of our patients see more than one therapist regularly. If your child is being treated by a COTA, understand that his/her plan of care and evaluations are still being conducted by an OTR.

Occupational therapy is tailored to each child’s specific needs. Before it starts, an OTR will evaluate the child’s strengths and struggles. From there, they will design a program of activities to help the child work on key skill development. Some examples of things an Akron occupational therapist might help your child work on:

  • Self-care routines, such as getting dressed, teeth brushing, etc.
  • Writing and copying notes.
  • Holding and controlling a pencil, scissors, etc.
  • Catching and throwing.
  • Organizing their school work.
  • Appropriate reactions to sensory input (building self-regulation skills).
These are just a few examples of what your child’s OTR or COTA could work on with your child. Typically, the earlier the child starts OT, the better. The ability to do basic tasks helps build children’s confidence and self-esteem, keeps them on-task academically and allows them to successfully navigate tricky social interactions.

Therapy & Wellness Connection – your connection to a life without limitations – provides occupational therapy to children in Cleveland, Brecksville-Broadview Heights, Akron and surrounding communities. We also offer summer camp, day programs, homeschooling, alternative schooling, virtual therapy and education, vocational counseling and more. Call us at (330) 748-4807 or send us an email.

Additional Resources:

Qualifications of an Occupational Therapist, American Occupational Therapy Association

More Blog Entries:

Akron Occupational Therapists Explain How Exercise Boosts Kids’ Concentration, Feb. 15, 2021, Pediatric Occupational Therapist Blog