What Do Occupational and Physical Therapy Services Look Like?  

October 25, 2018

Both school and clinic based therapy services can benefit children. Given that there are real differences between school-based and clinic based occupational (OT) and physical therapy (PT), it will be helpful to distinguish what those are and how those support children in an educational setting. In general, OT is provided by a licensed therapist and works with people of all ages to teach them how to do the things they need and want to do through everyday activities. PT focuses on improving functional mobility, promoting motor development, ensuring access to environments and increasing safety and participation.

Depending on the setting, different models of service delivery are used. In the medical model, clinic based therapy services begin with a referral from a doctor with interventions directed at environments other than the school and/or home setting. In the educational model, the school-based related services of OT and/or PT follow the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act or IDEA. OT and/or PT begins with the identification of a child or student with a disability by the educational team with evidence for the need for OT and/or PT. These related services assist students in accessing their school setting and increasing participation within their educational program. Early intervention related services for children birth to three years old support families towards their goals for their child’s development within the routines in the natural environment. 
  
At the individual student support level, OT addresses skills in the school setting as they relate to the student’s ability to learn and may include: adapting the educational environment to meet the student’s needs, teaching daily living skills, developing perceptual motor abilities, sensory integration supports, or supporting movement and functional challenges. PT services provide interventions, accommodations, modifications and adaptations to a student’s daily routine through work with an educational team. To be most effective, the therapist not only works with the child but also with families and caregivers within the birth to 3 setting. Once school age, the essential component of collaboration with paraprofessionals, teachers and other school staff  helps to ensure follow- through towards improved outcomes for students. 

At the school or district level, therapy service providers are involved in initiatives that support school teams towards the development of improved skills for their learners. Several of the ESU 10 OTs and PTs are involved in the development and implementation of Student Centered Programming which helps students develop life skills. Some of the ESU 10 therapists participate in the Planning Region Team 10 in supporting efforts in the region to close gaps and barriers for families and children with disabilities through early intervention. Finally, some of the ESU 10 therapists are involved in developing elementary school-wide regulation and ready-to-learn supports students. 

The ESU 10 therapists’ expertise supports the mission of serving schools through partnerships with the stakeholders of families, administrators, and educators through providing services, learning opportunities and supports.

A helpful link for more information on developmental milestones published by the CDC: https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/actearly/milestones/index.html

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