SSPS:Educationally Relevant Occupational and Physical Therapy Services

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School Based Occupational Therapy (OT) and Physical Therapy (PT)

IDEA requires provision of related services, including occupational and physical therapy (OT/PT) in the school setting. OT and PT are related services provided to assist a student in his/her educational program. The student must have a recognized disability or disorder, which adversely affects educational performance, which includes developmental, academic and functional skills. For a related service to be included in the individual educational plan (IEP), the team must determine that the student requires that service to benefit from special education (IDEA, 2004.)

Within the school environment, all OT and PT services are provided as a support to enhance the student’s ability to access his/her educational program. When determining a need for the occupational therapy or physical therapy service, the IEP team must consider the student’s IEP goals and objectives, the support needed to achieve these goals, and the recommendations made by the occupational or physical therapist.

It is important to realize that if a student has an identifiable therapy need, which does not prevent the student from accessing or progressing in his/her educational program, then school-based therapy is not needed. Although the student may have a disability that required private/outside therapy, the student may not need school-based therapy services to benefit from special education. The IEP team determines if the expertise of a therapist is necessary for the student to attain annual IEP goals.

Initiation of School Based Occupational Therapy or Physical Therapy

To initiate school based occupational or physical therapy, the teacher, parent/guardian or other involved person can request the school consider an evaluation. (Note: A physician referral does not determine the provision of T/IEP-driven OT or PT services).

Needs and Scope of Services

Based on the data including the licensed therapist’s evaluation, the T/IEP team decides the need and scope of services that a student requires to benefit from his/her educational program. Assessment takes into consideration needs associated with progressing the student in the educational setting. Note: (A physician’s referral does not determine the provision of T/IEP-driven OT or PT services.)

Therapy addresses the student’s access to the academic curriculum and other school functions. OT/PT works towards the student’s independence and participation in school.

Delivery of Services

To the extent possible, therapy is integrated and provided in the student’s natural environment (e.g. classroom, lunchroom, stairs, hallways, playground, work-study sites or other Department of Education (DOE) approved instructional settings).

The most common service delivery methods include direct, integrated or consultative, with the latter of the two being the least restrictive method. The student’s teacher, instructional assistant, etc. are trained for effective carryover of skills learned from therapy sessions. However, only a licensed therapist may provide professional therapeutic services.

In considering a child's need for additional services at school, it is important to recognize that such services may affect the child's instructional program. A determination must be made regarding whether the child is to be removed from instruction to work directly with a service provider, whether the services are to be provided within the context of the instructional program, or whether they are to be provided with consultation with the classroom teacher. The IEP team must determine whether the services' impact on the student's instructional program is of greater value to the child's overall success at school compared with the benefits the child would receive from the unaltered instructional program. It may be more important for the child to receive an unaltered instructional program while in school to make academic progress, therefore, parents may want to consider accessing occupational and/or physical therapy services in a clinical setting.

Eligibility and Procedures

For information about eligibility and procedures for OT and PT as a related service, visit the OT Eligibility wiki page or the PT Eligibility wiki page.