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Occupational and Physical Therapy

Occupational Therapy and Physical Therapy in Special Education are considered to be "related services" under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (or IDEA).

Definition of Related Services

Related services are development, corrective or other supportive services that are required to assist a student with a disability to benefit from special education.

Some students may need related services to meet their individually designed special education goals. The need for related services is considered during the student's admission, review, and dismissal (ARD) Committee meeting. The ARD Committee reviews and discusses the student's evaluation and ongoing assessment data and makes recommendations. The need for related services to support special educational goals must be clearly identified in the student's individualized education program (IEP).

What is Physical Therapy?

Physical Therapy is a related service provided by therapists who are licensed by the Texas Board of Physical Therapy Examiners. Physical Therapy services may be provided to a qualified student, i.e. a student who is eligible for Special Education services, who needs developmental, corrective, or other supportive services to benefit from his/her Special Education program. Physical Therapy services may be indicated when a student has a disability or a special need in one of the following areas:

  • Mobility
  • Posture
  • Gait
  • Strength
  • Positioning
  • Adaptive Equipment
  • Gross motor development
  • Neurological functioning

What is Occupational Therapy?

Occupational Therapy is a related service provided by therapists who are licensed by the Texas Board of Occupational Therapy Examiners. Occupational Therapy may be provided to a qualified special education student, who may need additional support to engage in meaningful and purposeful daily school "occupations" in order to benefit from his or her special education program and be successful in the educational setting.

Occupational Therapy services address performance within an educational context, including classroom lessons and activities, self-help, pre-vocational and vocational activities, play and leisure, and social skills. Outcomes are directed toward improved participation in the educational curriculum, access to the school environment, and participation in extra curricular activities. Occupational Therapy services may be indicated when a student has challenges or a special need in one or more of the following areas that impact his/her ability to function, participate, and be successful in the educational setting;

  • Fine-motor development
  • Visual-motor development
  • Neurological Functioning
  • Sensory processing
  • Self-help skills
  • Strength
  • Positioning
  • Adaptive equipment/Assistive Technology 

Part of the role of the Physical Therapist and the Occupational Therapist is to work with both the student and the educational staff, including other related services personnel to facilitate the acquisition of functional school skills. This is done using an integrated service delivery model. Our goal is to have all members of the educational team work toward the same goal(s) and to remove the student from the classroom setting as little as possible. In addition, we make sure the various activities performed are done in a safe manner, both for the student and for the staff members.

Intervention by the therapist can occur in a variety of settings including the classroom, gym, playground, hallways, cafeteria, bathroom, etc. We provide services using a variety of intervention methodologies including direct service, consultation and providing and maintaining adaptive equipment.

Difference Between the Medical and Educational Model of Physical and Occupational Therapy

School-based Physical and Occupational Therapy services are based on the educational model as opposed to the medical model of service provision.

Medical Model

Medically related services are generally performed to change the child's physical status. Treatment objectives are generally chosen along a predetermined developmental sequence or physical change sequence/rehabilitation sequence, regardless of the amount of time away from regular activities that may be required to achieve the goal.

Educational Model

The primary role of schools is to provide education. As such, all services, including techniques chosen, are designed to meet the student's educational goals as determined at the ARD/IEP meeting. At times adaptations/modifications and/or consulting/monitoring may be the only intervention(s) necessary for the child to access their schoolwork and campus environments. These interventions may successfully improve the student's ability to function at school without necessarily changing the child's physical/developmental status. Improved function within typical school-related tasks/activities is of primary importance to allow the student to better perform in the classroom. The techniques and/or modifications are chosen by the individual school-based therapist and ARD Committee; not as prescribed by an outside agency.

In this model, many individuals (classroom teachers, paraprofessionals, etc.) may provide therapeutic input to the student throughout the day and across the educational environment under their direction of the school-based physical and/or occupational therapist. This therapy model minimizes the disruption to the child's education, and maximizes his availability for instruction.