What Does Physical Therapy Entail?
Physical therapy (PT), under the federal law IDEA, is a related service. Physical therapists (PTs) are members of the collaborative educational team. PTs are integral in assisting students in accessing, participating in, increasing independence, and engaging within their academic program. In addition, PTs assist the collaborative educational team in determining appropriate programs for students and support the total educational system.
School-based PT intervention focuses on the ability of the student to access and participate in the activities or teaching that occurs in the school setting, rather than "treatment" (i.e., medical continuum of needs based on diagnosis and parent/patient concerns) commonly provided in a clinical setting. Direct intervention, whether individually or in a group, is used when the distinct and ongoing expertise of a PT is required to implement strategies to help the student develop skills and/or enable the student to participate in the educational program. Indirect intervention or when a PT provides intervention on behalf of the student, the PT provides consultative/collaborative intervention and performs other activities necessary to meet the student's needs in the educational setting (staff education, training, program development, advocacy).
Physical therapists' "unique expertise" may include but is not limited to:
- Age-appropriate gross motor skills / developmental milestones
- Knowledge of principles of motor control, motor planning, and balance/coordination
- Assessing strength, range of motion, and endurance (body function) and its impact on mobility, postures for learning, play/recreation, and participation across various aspects of the educational environment (i.e., getting on and off the school bus, as well as accessing outdoor playground equipment, stairs, curves, and ramps.
- Promoting wellness and learning of students with or without disabilities
- Knowledge of adaptive positioning and mobility equipment as well as designing programs for the use of the equipment and staff training