Under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), Physical Therapy (PT) is a related service “that may be required to assist a child with a disability to benefit from special education”. PT is designed to enhance a special education student’s ability to fully access and be successful in his/her learning environment. Following referral by a student’s IEP team, with signed parent permission, the school-based PT evaluates the student’s functional range of motion, strength, movement patterns, functional mobility, and gross motor skills. If a student is found eligible by IEP team decision, goals are collaboratively developed, and services may be offered on a consultative or direct basis, in individual ‘pull out’ sessions or within large group settings with peers (such as on the playground or in the gym). Examples of intervention focus might be on increasing proximal stability or positioning for participation in school tasks; building strength and endurance, and enhancing balance for increased participation during recess; ensuring accessibility throughout the school; or maximizing participation in field trips or vocational opportunities. PT’s also make assistive technology recommendations, assist to procure and maintain equipment, provide training for classroom staff on student safety and intervention carryover, monitor student progress, and with parent permission, liaison with the student’s other medical providers.
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Educational PT versus Medical PT