General Role of the OTA in Physical Disabilities

This article describes in general the role of the occupational therapy assistant (OTA) as an occupational therapy practitioner (OTP). Note that each state and it’s Practice Act has its own specific guidelines for the roles and responsibilities of the OTA. Therefore, both the OT and OTA should review individual state licensure laws to ensure compliance, especially with supervision.

Evaluation and Screening

The OTA plays a vital role in educating physicians and other potential referral sources on initiating referrals for occupational therapy. In accordance with the guidelines set by the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) in 2015, the OTA may conduct certain aspects of the screening process under the supervision of an OT. Once the OT has selected appropriate evaluation tools, the OTA may administer those instruments that align with their level of experience and competence.


To ensure consistent and reliable administration techniques, the OTA should perform these assessments under the guidance and supervision of the OT until they have demonstrated proficiency. It is crucial for the OTA to possess excellent observation skills and the ability to establish rapport with clients in a short period as effective assessment administration demands these qualities. Subsequently, the OTA conveys the assessment results both orally and in writing, ensuring clear communication.

Furthermore, the OTA may collaborate with the OT to educate the client and their family regarding the purpose and significance of the evaluation procedures. This collaborative effort helps provide comprehensive information and facilitates the client’s understanding of the assessment process and its outcomes.

Advocacy by the OTA

If an OTA feels pressured by their employers to perform evaluation procedures for which they are not qualified, they should take certain steps to address the situation. Firstly, they should reach out to their Occupational Therapist (OT) supervisor for guidance and support. It is important for the OTA to clearly explain the distinctions between the roles of OT and OTA.

If the pressure persists or worsens to the point where it becomes threatening, the OTA should contact local and state practice associations, as well as the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA). These organizations can provide further assistance and guidance in handling the situation. It is crucial for OTAs to prioritize their professional licensure and avoid working outside of their practice guidelines, as this could put their licensure at risk.

Intervention Plan

OTAs primarily contribute to intervention plans in different areas of daily life such as self-care (both basic and instrumental), work, education, play, and leisure. They play a vital role in assisting individuals with these activities.

As OTAs gain experience and demonstrate their competence in delivering services, they are granted more autonomy. This means they have the freedom to implement treatment activities, provide education to clients and families, and maintain accurate documentation of the services provided.

For instance, let’s consider an OTA working with a stroke survivor who is struggling with dressing and bathing. The OTA can collaborate with the client to create a personalized plan that includes specific exercises and activities to improve these skills. During therapy sessions, the OTA will work closely with the client, guiding them through the activities and teaching techniques to regain independence in self-care tasks.

In another example, an OTA may work with a child who has developmental delays in play skills. They can develop interventions that focus on promoting social interaction and enhancing motor skills through play-based activities. The OTA will engage the child in playful and imaginative tasks while providing guidance and support to foster progress.

Throughout the therapy process, the OTA diligently documents the client’s progress, recording any improvements or challenges observed. This documentation is crucial for monitoring the effectiveness of the therapy plan and ensuring it meets the specific needs of each individual.

Transition Services

OTAs have the opportunity to provide transition services that assist clients in moving from one healthcare facility or environment to another. For example, if a client with a head injury wishes to transition towards independent community living, the OTA may be involved in coordinating or implementing a transition plan designed by the OT.

This transition may require collaboration with community agencies that offer support and resources for the client’s specific needs. Depending on their practice area and expertise, the OTA can play a role in facilitating appointments, connecting the client with necessary services, and ensuring a smooth transfer of care. Throughout the process, the OTA offers guidance and support to address any challenges that arise during the transition, ultimately aiming for a successful shift towards independent living within the community.


In conclusion, Occupational Therapy Assistants (OTAs) play crucial roles in the field of occupational therapy. They educate referral sources about initiating occupational therapy referrals and may administer parts of the screening process under the supervision of an Occupational Therapist (OT). The OTA’s responsibilities also extend to conducting assessments, communicating assessment results, and collaborating with OTs to educate clients and their families about evaluation procedures.

OTAs contribute significantly to intervention plans, assisting individuals in various areas of daily life such as self-care, work, education, play, and leisure. With increasing experience and demonstrated competence, OTAs gain autonomy in implementing treatment activities, providing client and family education, and documenting the services provided. They actively support clients during transitions between healthcare facilities or environments, coordinating and implementing transition plans designed by OTs.

Overall, OTAs contribute significantly to the occupational therapy profession, applying their expertise to improve the lives of individuals in need of therapeutic interventions and facilitating their transition towards independent and fulfilling lifestyles.


American Occupational Therapy Association, 2015 American Occupational Therapy Association. Standards of practice for occupational therapy. American Journal Occupational Therapy. 2015;69(3):S56–S57 hps://

American Occupational Therapy Association, 2014a American Occupational Therapy Association. Guidelines for supervision, roles, and responsibilities during the delivery of occupational therapy services. American Journal Occupational Therapy. 2014a;68(3):S16–S22 hps://