Occupational and Physical Therapy
AN EDUCATIONAL MODEL
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.
ROLE OF THERAPY
Physical Therapy (PT) addresses gross motor skills as they relate to safety and a child’s ability to participate with peers, functional mobility/gait for safe navigating in the school environment, postural control/seating, balance skills, transfer skills, and equipment and/or environment adaptations.
Occupational Therapy (OT) addresses areas of fine motor/visual-motor skills, visual perceptual skills, ocular motor skills, and sensory processing/regulation as they relate to a child’s academic difficulties, school self-care skills, ability to manage classroom materials, organization, play skills, and graphic communication. OT’s also adapt and modify the materials and environment as needed.
There are many ways an OT/PT can assess a child to determine difficulties in the school setting:
- Concerns of teachers, parents, and other personnel
- Observation of child in different school settings
- Functional school assessments
- Clinical observations that look at underlying skills
- Standardized tests
- 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.
DETERMINATION OF SERVICES
- The decision to initiate or discontinue therapy is determined by the IEP team and based on many factors. This may occur when a child no longer has a need for special education; when other school personnel can implement necessary intervention; or when a child can perform school tasks without therapy intervention.