Children with special needs and their families have access to pediatric occupational therapy and physical therapy through both the schools and community/clinic-based programs. A child benefits most when therapy providers work together with a family to determine what therapies are needed and where a child's needs can be met most effectively. A plan of intervention may involve school-based therapy only, community/clinic-based therapy only, or a carefully communicated and coordinated combination of both.
School-Based Occupational Therapy (OT) and Physical Therapy
- The provision of school-based therapy is governed by federal and state laws. Therapy is a related service to special education and is provided only if the child needs therapy to function in the educational setting.
- In the school, the need for therapy is determined by the IEP Team. Parents are a part of this team. The team determines the amount, frequency, and duration - not the physician alone.
- Therapy many by provided individually or in small group by a therapist or therapist assistant. Intervention may or may not be provided directly with the child. Collaborating with educational staff to modify the child's environment and daily school activities is always a part of school therapy.
- Treatment techniques, such as heat/cold, electrical stimulation, and biofeedback training are typically not provided.
- Therapy takes place where the child receives education. Appropriate intervention may be provided in classrooms, hallways, gyms, playgrounds, lunchrooms, bathrooms, or in a separate therapy room.
- The decision to discontinue therapy is made by the IEP Team. This may occur when the student is no longer eligible for special education, when other members of the IEP Team can provide necessary interventions, or when the child can perform school tasks without therapeutic intervention. There may still be a need for community-based services.