Occupational and Physical Therapy

Occupational Therapy, Physical Therapy, and IDEA 2004
School based Occupational Therapy and Physical Therapy are related services to special education. Within public schools, Occupational and Physical Therapy are governed by federal and state special education law, including the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act of 2004.
A student on an Individualized Education Plan is eligible to receive a related service, such as Occupational Therapy or Physical Therapy if that student requires the related service in order to benefit from his/her special education programming. Deciding whether a student may need occupational or physical therapy, in order to benefit from his/her special education programming, requires the consideration of multiple factors. The physical environment, need of the student, professional experience of the educators, specific programming currently in place are a few of the many context specific factors that determine whether a student requires a related service in order to benefit from his/her special education programming. 
Occupational Therapy and Physical Therapy Best Practice
The best therapists make themselves progressively unnecessary. They have modified the environment, procured appropriate equipment or tools, trained student and staff in activity follow through, and continuously monitor the effectiveness of the recommended educationally–relevant program.
Best practices of school-based Occupational Therapy and Physical Therapy result in students within their classroom environment learning with their peers. The ultimate goal is meaningful participation in the least restrictive environment, as appropriate. 
Students needs vary; Occupational Therapy and Physical Therapy will vary depending upon a student’s educational need. IDEA 2004, the federal law guiding Occupational Therapy and Physical Therapy practice within public schools, requires that Occupational Therapy and Physical Therapy practices support a students’ benefit from their special education programming. Occupational Therapy and Physical Therapy services may include consultation, direct therapy as an individual or in a group. 
Service Delivery
 In essence, the goal of school-based occupational and physical therapy services can be defined as 3 parts:
  1. Directly supporting a student’s access to educational activities and the school environment
    • Evaluation of a student’s functional performance to determine what is necessary for him/her to benefit from special education
    • Facilitate the appropriate programming and interventions to address functional sensory, motor, safety, and/or life skills as related to the student’s Individualized Education Plan
  2. Collaborating with the general and special education teachers and other school personnel (speech-language pathologists, school psychologists, counselors, etc.) to improve a student’s participation and performance in curriculum-based activities identified by the teacher
  3. Educating teachers, family members, and others about the impact of disability on the educational performance and the potential benefits of adaptations or accommodations
School-based services versus clinical/private services:
The goal of clinical therapy is to optimize the child’s functional performance in relation to needs in the home and community.  In contrast, school-based therapy is provided to assist a child in benefiting from special education.  In the school setting, Occupational Therapy and/or Physical Therapy services must be directly related to the education and functional needs of the student within the school setting and the student’s ability to learn.