What is school-based Occupational and Physical Therapy?

School-based physical and occupational therapists work with other professionals to assist children with disabilities with accessing their education.  For physical therapists, this includes assisting students with physically accessing activities that are required during a typical school day (ie. moving through school grounds, sitting, standing in line or at the board, moving in class and throughout the building).  For occupational therapists, this includes aiding students with participating in self-care skills (ie. feeding, dressing), fine motor skills (ie. handwriting) and sensory processing skills (ie. self regulating and attention).School-based physical and occupational therapists may make adaptations to the school environments, may work with a student on their sensory-motor skills, may provide special equipment, and may consult with school staff regarding the child’s needs. Both occupational and physical therapists may utilize assistive technology in order to maximize student school performance.

A child’s eligibility is determined by a multidisciplinary team that includes parents, educators, and special service providers. A student qualifies for occupational or physical therapy services, if the team finds the service necessary in order for the student to access his or her educational program. This determination is made with a formal screening and evaluating process. Both observation, standardized testing and care giver interview are utilized to help the educational team make this decision. Once recommended, occupational and/or physical therapy should be included in the student’s 504 plan or in his or her Individualized Educational Plan.

If a student qualifies for occupational and/or physical therapy services, the services will be listed as direct, consultation, or both on the Individualized Education Plan or 504 plan.

Direct services include interventions by the physical or occupational therapist that are used when the child needs support from specialized therapy techniques that cannot be safely or easily be carried out by others.  The ideal setting for this is in the classroom, although sometimes it is necessary to provide therapy in another special location (stairway, hallway, therapy room, and/or gym).

Consultation services involve collaboration between the therapist and staff members who work with the child as well as with the parents; the therapist plans the appropriate intervention, provides training to staff along with assistance monitoring student progress, and ensures the appropriate equipment is in place.  Some direct contact with the student will occur in order to monitor progress and ensure the intervention is being carried out safely and effectively.

For more information about the Occupational and Physical Therapy Department please contact:

Alison Ward, Special Education Director