Occupational and Physical Therapy
School occupational therapists are key contributors within the education team. They support a student’s ability to participate in desired daily school activities or “occupations.” They help children to fulfill their role as students by supporting their academic achievement and promoting positive behaviors necessary for learning. School occupational therapists support academic and non-academic outcomes, including social skills, math, reading and writing (i.e., literacy), behavior management, recess, participation in sports, self-help skills, prevocational / vocational participation, transportation, and more. Because of their expertise in activity and environmental analysis, practitioners are particularly skilled in facilitating student access to curricular and extracurricular activities. They focus on the students’ strengths, and can design and implement programming to improve inclusion and accessibility, such as Universal Design for Learning. Additionally, they play a critical role in educating parents, educators, administrators and other staff members. They offer services along a continuum of prevention, promotion, and interventions and serve individual students, groups of students, whole classrooms, and whole school initiatives. They collaborate within the education team to support student success. In this way, occupational therapy practitioners can contribute within both general and special education.
Occupational therapy practitioners have specific knowledge and expertise to increase participation in school routines throughout the day. Interventions include:
- Conducting activity and environmental analysis and making recommendations to improve the fit for greater access, progress, and participation
- Reducing barriers that limit student participation within the school environment
- Providing assistive technology to support student success
- Supporting the needs of students with significant challenges, such as by helping to determine methods for alternate educational assessment and learning
- Helping to identify long-term goals for appropriate post-school outcomes
- Helping to plan relevant instructional activities for ongoing implementation in the classroom
- Preparing students for successfully transitioning into appropriate post–high school employment, independent living, and/or further education
Occupational therapy practitioners are key contributors within the educational team. They help to address both mental and physical health. They collaborate with a variety of partners, such as:
- Students, to help them to develop self-advocacy and self-determination skills in order to plan for their future and transition to college, career/employment, and community living; improve their performance in learning environments throughout the school (e.g., playgrounds, classrooms, lunchrooms, bathrooms); and optimize their performance through specific adaptations and accommodations (AOTA Fact Sheet)
Role of a Physical Therapist
Physical therapy is provided to support the Individualized Education Program (IEP) for students ages 3-21, who have a disability that interferes with their educational performance and ability to benefit from their education program. When the student’s IEP identifies physical therapy as a needed resource, physical therapists will be integrated as members of a multidisciplinary school team. Using their unique expertise in movement and function, physical therapists ensure a free and appropriate education for students with disabilities to prepare them for further education, employment, and independent living. The school-based physical therapy promotes motor development and the student’s participation in everyday routines and activities that are a part of his or her program.
The physical therapist designs and performs therapeutic interventions, including compensation, remediation and prevention strategies and adaptations, focusing on functional mobility and safe, efficient access and participation in educational activities and routines in natural learning environments.
Contact our Special Services Office for more information.