The school physical therapist, as a member of the educational team, supports the education of students suspected of and/or diagnosed with a disability in their least restrictive environment. The school physical therapists develop; implements and coordinate a physical therapy program within the local educational agency (LEA); providing screening, evaluation and intervention services. Skilled provision of physical therapy prevents injury (acute or chronic) of both students and educational staff.
Working with students with disabilities and serious health impairments, the physical therapist is expected to analyze risk, problem solve effectively and demonstrate a high level of professional judgment when recommending and providing services, making environmental modifications and training staff to manage physical needs at an appropriate level of supervision. Consultation with educational and community personnel is also an essential component of physical therapist's roles/responsibilities
Occupational therapists lead the process in development, implementation, and coordination of the occupational therapy program. Screening, evaluation, educational program and transition planning, therapeutic intervention, and exit planning is provided for students identified with or suspected of having disabilities that interfere with their ability to perform daily life activities or participate in necessary or desired occupations. Professional judgment and clinical knowledge are used to develop individualized programming based on occupational performance deficits in the areas of personal care, student role, interaction skills, process skills, play, community integration/work, and graphic communication. Occupational therapists regularly collaborate with other disciplines and services at departmental and system levels.
The provision of school-based therapy is governed by state and federal laws. OT and PT are related services to special education that address motor deficits that impact a child’s ability to benefit from his/her specially designed program. Related services are recommended because the team agrees that they can best support the student’s special education program. The need for therapy services is not determined by diagnosis, low test scores, or other indication of a gross or fine motor deficit.
- OT’s and PT’s work closely with teachers and other school personnel so skills gained are integrated into the student’s educational program and daily routine
- Inclusion in the classroom and other school settings such as the lunchroom, art, bathroom, playground or PE class is promoted whenever possible
- Parents have the opportunity to collaborate and learn strategies from the therapists to help their child
Therapy may be provided individually or in small groups by a therapist or therapist assistant. Intervention may or may not be provided directly with a child. Collaborating with educational staff to modify the child’s environment and daily school activities are always a part of school therapy.