Humboldt County Office of Education: Certified Occupational Therapy Assistant (COTA)

Notice: In July 2022 HCOE classified job descriptions were re-classified. We are working to get the classifications changed on individual job descriptions. A PDF mapping these changes can be found here. For questions please contact the HCOE Personnel Office at (707) 445-7039.

HCOE Job Description

Certified Occupational Therapy Assistant (COTA)

Position Summary

Under the direction and supervision of a Registered Occupational Therapist (OTR), the Certified Occupational Therapy Assistant (COTA) assists in supplementing, enhancing and extending occupational therapy services by completing a variety of tasks such as, but not limited to, activities designed by OTR to assist with assessment, intervention, treatment and activities to enhance motor, sensory, self-regulatory, feeding and other functional abilities.  This is a 10-month position.

This position description is intended to describe the general nature and level of work being performed by the employee assigned to the position. This description is not an exhaustive list of all duties, responsibilities, knowledge, skills, abilities and working conditions associated with the position. Employees may be required to perform any combination of these duties.

Distinguishing Characteristics

The COTA works with students under the direction of the Registered Occupational Therapist to provide direct and consultative occupational therapy services by utilizing specialized equipment and treatment techniques to designated students according to goals contained in an individual educational program (IEP) or 504 plan.

Supervision Received and Exercised

This position is under the supervision of the Registered Occupational Therapist under the direction of the assigned administrator.

Examples of Duties and Responsibilities (Examples of Essential Job Functions)

  • Assists OTR with screenings, assessments and occupational therapy services.
  • Follows and implements documented IEP plans or protocols.
  • Documents student progress toward meeting established objectives and reports the information to the OTR.
  • Assists the OTR during assessments with formal documentation.
  • Prepares materials and performs clerical duties.
  • Prepares therapy materials and/or equipment for use in the classroom and therapy activities.
  • Adapts or modifies instructional materials and/or equipment as determined by student needs and abilities for teacher use in the classroom.
  • Assists in maintaining student records, tallying data, preparing charts, records, graphs, and reports.
  • Assists in organizing classroom activities such as displaying educational materials, arranging furniture to facilitate instructional requirements and creates an orderly and clean learning environment.
  • May implement behavior management programs for students as designed by certified staff, observes and reports significant student behavior, behavioral patterns and/or other problems to the OTR.
  • Qualifications/Employment Standards

Note:  The COTA is NOT able to conduct assessments/evaluations, initiate treatments, interpret data, alter IEP plans or perform any task without the express knowledge/approval of the supervising OTR.   The COTA is able to administer assessments with OTR approval but is NOT able to interpret the results.


Knowledge of:

  • Occupational therapy equipment, materials, procedures.
  • Current occupational therapy methodologies.
  • Normal child development.
  • Physical and mental disorders that can affect pediatric occupational performance.
  • Learning patterns in children.
  • Student behavior management techniques and strategies.
  • Dealing effectively with attitudes and behaviors of students.
  • Effective time management.
  • Effective selection, preparation and presentation of materials.
  • Maintaining student progress documentation.
  • A variety of screening tools, protocols and forms of documentation.
  • Effective implementation of therapy objectives.
  • Operation of instructional and office equipment.
  • Simple math in order to compile reports and maintain records and status reports.
  • Effective and tactful communication in both oral and written forms to ensure successful interaction with parents, students, supervisor, school staff and community agency representatives.
  • Modification and differentiation of lessons to meet students needs and progress (with guidance from OTR).
  • Consultation with OTR when student’s progress is not consistent.
  • Development and monitoring of carry over activities with classroom teacher and home.
  • Development and implementation of creative, appropriate lessons/materials to ensure progress towards student IEP goals.
  • Working with students individually and in small groups.
  • Development of schedules for student services that meet IEP requirements.

Ability to:

  • Receive instruction and training in relevant areas.
  • Be sensitive to cultural, social, economic and racial characteristics and diversity.
  • Learn to provide instruction in special subject matter areas or to children who have special needs.
  • Actively engage in activities with students including play, bend, kneel, lift and sit at a child’s level.
  • Read and write printed materials, computer screens and observe student’s movement (visual acuity).
  • Ability to communicate in small groups, one-on-one conversations and to speak with small groups of children.
  • Demonstrate competence in communicating effectively with children and parents, staff members and representatives of other agencies.
  • Provide appropriate social, emotional and behavioral supports to meet student needs.
  • Regulate and manage emotions during sometimes challenging situations.
  • Request assistance when needed.
  • Function independently with assigned tasks.
  • Be able to work directly with all racial, ethnic, linguistic, disability and socioeconomic groups, while maintaining a kind and professional demeanor free of discrimination.
  • Be flexible and adaptable to changing environments and schedules.
  • Ability to change communication style to multiple cultural environments.
  • Provide positive social, emotional and behavioral supports to meet the needs of all students.
  • Collaborate and maintain a productive and safe learning environment.
  • Organize and prioritize work & manage time effectively.
  • Communicate in a professional manner, in formal and informal settings, with students, parents and fellow staff.
  • Collect data under the guidance of the teacher or specialist.
  • Keep information confidential.
  • Prepare instructional materials, such as art and other activities.

Education and Experience

Minimum Required:

  • Associates degree in Occupational Therapy.
  • Valid Occupational Therapy Assistant Certification from California Board of Occupational Therapy at the time of appointment and must maintain current certification throughout employment in this classification.
  • COTA experience in a pediatric setting.


  • Experience working within a school setting.

Working Conditions

This position will be assigned to an educational setting which may be in a classroom, community or home.  The employee will be expected to work closely with other county offices, district personnel, students, families, other medical professionals, outside agencies and private partners. Assigned school site settings where multiple children, school staff and families are present.  Employees may be required to walk, stand or conduct work in outdoor educational environments where there may be loud students or staff, varied temperatures, public interaction or upset staff or students.

Physical Demands & Working Environment

Essential duties require, but are not limited to, the following physical abilities:

  • Sit at a desk, table, on low chairs, on the floor or on mats or in classrooms of various configurations for extended periods of time.
  • Sit, stand and/or move about for extended periods in varied settings (indoor or outdoor).
  • See, read and distinguish colors, a computer screen, educational materials, books and other printed matter, with or without vision aids.
  • Vision ability for both close and distant objects.
  • Ability to move quickly on uneven terrain, play yards and school grounds.
  • Ability to stoop, kneel, crouch, crawl, climb, balance, push wheelchairs or pull wagons with students at times.
  • Physical agility to lift up to 25 pounds to shoulder height and 50 pounds to waist height and to bend, sit on the floor, climb stairs, walk and reach overhead.
  • Mental acuity to perform the essential functions of this position in an accurate, neat, and timely fashion, to make good judgments and decisions and to evaluate the results of decisions and judgments.
  • Sufficient manual and finger dexterity to point out important words/figures to students and to operate personal computers.
  • Ambulatory ability to move around a classroom, playgrounds and assist with recreation-oriented learning activities.
  • Drive a vehicle and get to assigned station.

Other Requirements

  • Must be fingerprinted and a satisfactory Department of Justice records check must be received by HCOE prior to employment.
  • TB testing and/or risk assessment will be required upon employment.
  • Must pass a pre-employment physical (if applicable).
  • May be required to obtain first aid and CPR certificates within the first 6 to 12 months of employment.
  • May be required to drive with or without students; some positions may require a California driver’s license, proof of insurance and possible participation in the DMV PUll Notice Program once employed.

Classified | Range 12 (Reclassified from Range 48)
Personnel Commission Approved 4/19/2022
Revised 4/2023

Administration Office

Natalie Carrigan
Executive Assistant to the Superintendent

Press Inquiries

Natalie Carrigan
Executive Assistant to the Superintendent