Occupational and Physical Therapy ServicesOccupational and Physical Therapies are supportive services required to assist a child with a disability to benefit from special education. Services are provided based on a student’s individual needs, not the disability or special education classification.
School based occupational therapy (OT) is provided when a student needs therapy services to function in an educational environment. School based OT helps students develop skills necessary for a student to function at school, which may be different from medically based services.
There are many signs that would indicate the necessity of OT services for a student. Listed here are several, but not all, examples of what a student may have difficulties with that could cause decreased school performance:
- Hand function - cannot pick up or play with small objects easily, scissor skills, decreased muscle strength in hands, arms, or shoulders, etc.
- Sensory processing - dislikes touching different objects, craves movement, fearful of movement, poor body awareness, etc.
- Handwriting - can not read writing, writes slowly, poor pencil grip, etc.
- Posture - does not sit properly, slumps on desk frequently, etc.
- Self-care skills - tying shoes, zipping coat, buttoning pants, etc.
- Visual skills - copying from board or book, puzzles, etc.
- Attention span/Organizational skills
- Pre-vocational skills - difficulty with performing tasks required for job training.
Students who may require occupational therapy services are identified through the use of formal and informal assessments. OT services can be delivered in a variety of ways, depending on the child’s strengths and areas of difficulty. Direct OT services consist of group or individual sessions provided in class or out of class where the child’s specific goals are addressed through hands on purposeful activity. Indirect services, such as consultation and/or monitoring are provided to those children who have achieved specific goals or who require more adaptation rather than remediation. Consultation is an ongoing communication between the therapist, parent, teacher, and student where problem solving and trial of different adaptations and environmental changes are used to allow a student to function optimally in his or her educational environment without the need for direct services.
When a student makes progress, the amount of OT that the student receives may be decreased. When a student reaches all of his or her OT goals or the student has reached the highest expected functional level, OT is usually discontinued.
Physical Therapists help students accomplish gross motor activities. These are activities using large muscle groups, including walking, jumping, carrying heavy or multiple items, etc. The school therapist works on school related goals to help students benefit from their educational programs. These may include increasing access to school resources, classroom mobility, or increasing a student’s ability to safely maneuver in the school’s hallways. Educational performance for young children also includes self-help skills and gross motor skills on the playground and in physical education class.
Physical Therapy services can take place in a variety of school settings, such as in classrooms, hallways, gyms, playgrounds, lunchrooms, or in a separate therapy room. Therapy may be provided individually or in small groups. Collaborating with educational staff to modify the child's environment and daily school activities is also a part of school therapy.
Students who have physical limitations preventing them from accessing school resources may be entitled to receive school therapy. The need for therapy is determined through an evaluation that consists of formal and informal assessments. Many times, physicians and other service providers who have worked with the child make specific recommendations for therapy. While these recommendations are considered, school-based decisions are made in the context of the child's educational needs. The amount, frequency, and duration of therapy is determined by the Physical Therapist and reviewed at least annually. Changes in these services may be made in accordance to the student’s needs at that time. A student may be discharged from school-based therapy services when he or she reaches all of their PT goals or the student has reached the highest expected functional level.
If you are concerned about your child’s fine or gross motor development, please contact the Child Study Team at his or her school.