Occupational Therapy and Physical Therapy are part of the rehabilitation process to assist a person in achieving maximum independence. OTs and PTs work in a variety of settings including hospitals, outpatient clinics, mental health facilities, and are becoming increasingly common in school settings. When the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act was implemented, it required all public schools to provide a free and appropriate education. This paved the way for specialized services, such as OT and PT, to assist supporting the learning needs of eligible students in the educational environment.
Occupational and Physical Therapy services are provided to eligible students with disabilities, as described by in the Individuals with Disability Act (IDEA). OT and PT are considered “Related Services”, which means the intent is to meet a student’s educational needs. The deficit area must adversely affect the student’s ability to learn. Because OT and PT are Related Services, students cannot receive these services alone without an IEP. If a student has been identified as eligible for special education, he/she may qualify for OT and/or PT services to enhance functional performance. A physician’s prescription is required to initiate services, due to OT and PT licensure laws. A student may demonstrate difficulty with a skill in comparison to peers, but may not qualify for school-based OT and/or PT services. This child may be appropriate for therapy outside of school. School-based OT and/or PT is not designed to replace private OT and/or PT.
Least Restrictive Environment
There is a continuum of OT and PT services.
One must take into account the extent of student needs, and the impact services may have on participation in classroom activities. It is important to consider all options to determine which method(s) best support a student’s learning experience, while maximizing their independent function at an appropriate developmental level.
Some students may benefit from modifications such as adapted paper, scissors, writing tools, sensory breaks, adapted classroom chairs and desks.
Consulting with other staff members can often provide the strategies and support a student needs, without interrupting academic opportunities.
This allows for direct intervention in a more typical learning environment.
This provides the opportunity to focus on specific skills that may not be part of the classroom curriculum, but are needed for academic performance.