October 20, 2014 by HCDE-Texas
Have you ever wondered what occupational therapists (OTs) and physical therapists (PTs) do at school? OTs and PTs have been part of campus teams since the late 1970’s, supporting students with disabilities who need special education and therapy as a related service to make progress on their Individualized Education Program goals and objectives. The primary difference you will notice at school is that therapists do not typically pull students away from instruction for therapy. They look for barriers to learning and participation and find ways to remove or work around those barriers.
Physical therapists in schools intervene to ensure safe mobility and locomotion in all school environments as well as appropriate positioning for learning and participation in the classroom. Occupational therapists intervene to foster engagement and participation in learning and social activities, self-help skills and prevocational/vocational activities.
Research over the past 30 years has demonstrated that intervention by OTs and PTs at school is most effective if it takes place where and when a student’s participation in school activities need support. Therapists who work in schools bring their services to the classroom, the cafeteria, the playground – wherever students are challenged.
Services include intervention directly with the student, but also training for school personnel, fabrication of materials, monitoring of students’ mobility equipment, modifying environments, and collaborating with the teacher, parent, physician and/or private therapist, all on behalf of the student.
See how HCDE physical therapist Kaylon Fenner helps Racko, a student at Bleyl Middle School, use his gate trainer to participate in school activities alongside his classmates.
In addition to their work with students with disabilities in special education, occupational therapists and physical therapists contribute to campus activities that support all learners, not just those with identified disabilities. As part of campus efforts to intervene early and prevent unnecessary referrals to special education, therapists utilize their knowledge and skills by serving on school problem-solving teams. They help with collection and analysis for progress monitoring; design programs to foster social and emotional health, like bullying or obesity prevention; and provide training to teachers.
If you want to know more, contact the Special Education department in your local school district.
About the Blogger:
Jean Polichino, OTR, MS, FAOTA, is senior director of Therapy Services at Harris County Department of Education. Her passion for school therapy is evident in her state and national committee involvement and her contributions to professional publications. This devotion is exceeded only by family, which includes a couple of sassy canines of the shepherd variety.