Occupational and Physical Therapy

  • The Goal of Occupational and Physical Therapy:

    • Directly support student access to educational activities and the school environment
    • Collaborate with teachers and other staff to improve participations and performance in curriculum-based activities identified by the teacher
    • Educate teachers, family members, and others about the impacts of disability on educational performance, the potential benefits of adaptations or accommodations, and provide information on how to request support from related service professionals

    Physical Therapy, Occupational Therapy, and IDEA 2004

    School-based Occupational Therapy (OT) and Physical Therapy (PT) are related services to special education. In public schools, OT and PT are governed by federal and state special education law, including the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act of 2004 (IDEA) and Colorado's Exceptional Children's Education Act (ECEA).

    A student on an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) is eligible to receive a related service such as OT or PT if that student requires the related service in order to benefit from his/her special education programming (34 CFR §300.34). Deciding whether a student may need OT or PT requires consideration of multiple factors: physical environment, student needs, educator experience, current programming, or others.

    OT and PT Best Practices
    The best therapists make themselves progressively unnecessary in the following ways:

    • Modifying the environment
    • Procuring appropriate equipment or tools
    • Training staff and student in activity follow-through
    • Monitoring the effectiveness of the recommended program

    School-Based OT and PT Services

    • Governed by state and federal laws
    • Related services to special education
    • Provision of services, as a related service, occurs only if the child requires such service in order to function in the educational setting as determined by a team, including the parent
    • Delivered in order to improve, develop, or restore functions impaired or lost through illness, injury, or deprivation
    • Delivered in order to improve ability to perform tasks for independent function if functions are impaired or lost - which includes accommodating a disability
    • Delivered in order to prevent, through early intervention, initial or further impairment or loss of function
    • School-based therapies are intended to promote access to the educational environment and curriculum-based activities
    • School-based therapies are intended to support access to special education programming. Refining or maximizing weak motor skills would not be addressed id a student is successfully accessing the special education environment and curriculum-based activities
    • School-based Occupational and Physical Therapists are encouraged to conduct a context-based evaluation (ecological assessment). Of interest is a student's access to and participation in educationally relevant activities and environments
    • Ecological assessments emphasize function within the performance environment of the classroom and school
    • Percentile scores on standardized assessments are of little value when unattached to functional performance data
    • A student may perform poorly on a standardized motor assessment, but if appropriate accommodations are in place, the student may be functioning well within the classroom and school environment
    • School-based physical and occupational therapies are intended to support the student's special education programming. At times, a child may require clinic or home health-based interventions to satisfy the medical needs of the child. School-based OT and PT services may not be able to meet a child's total therapy needs in these cases