School-based physical therapists are part of a team of related service providers who support a student’s ability to access his/her educational environment. As specialists in movement, they assist a student’s physical participation in a variety of settings throughout the school day. The primary role of the school PT is to help students benefit from their educational program within the educational environment. Physical therapy is provided at schools only when it is related to educational needs. Intervention and goals in the school setting address the child’s functional needs in accessing all areas of the school curriculum. Physical therapy interventions are designed to enable the student to travel throughout the school environment, participate in classroom activities, maintain and change positions in the classroom, as well as manage stairs, restrooms, and the cafeteria.
PT in a school setting can vary based on a student’s individual needs, and can include:
· Modifying the environment to maximize participation (i.e. adaptive seating, standers, gait trainers).
· Altering expectations to maximize success and independence.
· Educating staff to enhance physical participation.
OCCUPATIONAL THERAPY IN THE EDUCATIONAL SETTING
School occupational therapists support a student’s ability to participate in desired daily school activities or “occupations”. They help children to fulfill their role as students by supporting their academic achievement and promoting positive behaviors necessary for learning. Occupational therapists and therapy assistants, support academic and non-academic outcomes, including social skills, math, reading, writing, recess, self-help skills, prevocational/vocational participation facilitating student access to curricular and extracurricular activities. They focus on the student’s strengths and can design and implement programming to improve inclusion and accessibility. OT’s play a critical role in educating parents, educators, administrators and other staff members. They offer services along a continuum of prevention, promotion and interventions and serve individual students, groups of students, whole classrooms and whole school initiatives. They collaborate within the education team to support student success. In this way, occupational therapy practitioners can contribute within both general and special education. Occupational therapy services for students with special needs are determined through the IEP process. School-based OT is available for students who are eligible for special education. Occupational therapists complete evaluations and assessments, and work with other members of the school-based team to help determine what is needed for a student to receive a free, appropriate public education (FAPE) in the least restrictive environment. They collaborate with the team to identify a student’s annual goals and determine services, supports, modifications and accommodations that are required for the student to achieve the highest level of functional independence in an educational setting.