Understanding School-Based Occupational and Physical Therapy Intervention
Occupational Therapy is the practice of treating people through the use of everyday activities, or occupations, so they can participate in the activities they want and need to do. The goal of occupational therapy is to help individuals lead productive and satisfying lives while promoting independence.
For children, whose occupation (or everyday activities), are school and play, an occupational therapist will focus on skills required throughout the school day.
The need for occupational therapy must be educationally relevant and therefore directly related to helping the child achieve success in the school environment. A physical or intellectual disability does not automatically quality a child for occupational therapy. Members of the child’s educational environment determine the decision as to whether a child receives occupational therapy in school.
Receiving physical therapy services in the schools is an option for many physically challenged children. Through therapeutic interventions, many students learn new skills and are able to participate more fully in school activities. School based physical therapy services however, are different than those provided in a hospital or clinical setting in several important ways.
The first is that therapy services in schools are mandated by law to be centered on improving the ability of physically challenged children to participate in school based activities. Walking, wheelchair skills, transfers, balance and endurance activities are often addressed in the therapy sessions. Children who receive services must have a permanent disability. Therapy is not provided for acute injuries or conditions which are non-permanent.
But receiving services isn’t automatic even for those children who have a known physical disability. The process for determining services begins with a referral for an evaluation based on concerns related to the child’s functional abilities in the school setting. Next, the physical therapist performs an evaluation of the student examining their strength, ability to move their arms, legs, trunk and head and examines mobility skills such as pushing a wheelchair or walking.
The therapist consults with team of teachers, staff, parents and other medical providers and the together a determination is made as to whether “interventions” will help to improve the child’s participation in school related activities
Interventions will include training and education regarding the nature of the child’s physical challenges, on activities and exercises designed to address their limitations and on assistance obtaining and using related therapeutic equipment. Intervention will require good communication and interaction between teachers, parents and supportive staff focusing on the child’s abilities and limitations. The primary focus of the interventions will be outlined in the Individualized Education Plan or “IEP”.
The purpose of this information is to give an overview of occupational and physical therapy services, some of the related services that may be available to child with special needs. If you are interested in learning more about occupational or physical therapy services, please feel free to contact us at the numbers or emails listed above. We look forward to hearing from you.