School Based Physical Therapy
School-based physical therapists (PT) are part of a team of related service providers who support a student’s ability to access his/her educational environment. As specialists in movement, they assist a student’s physical participation in a variety of settings throughout the school day. The primary role of the school PT is to help students benefit from their educational program within the educational environment.
Physical therapy is provided at schools only when it is related to educational needs. Intervention and goals in the school setting address the child’s functional needs in accessing all areas of the school curriculum. Physical therapy interventions are designed to enable the student to travel throughout the school environment; participate in classroom activities; maintain and change positions in the classroom; as well as manage stairs, restrooms, and the cafeteria. School-based therapy is not intended to meet all of the therapeutic needs of a student; rather it is intended to ensure that a child can have physical access to his or her education.
In addition to providing direct physical therapy (or instead of), a physical therapist may provide consultation to a child’s educational team (teachers, paraprofesssionals, other therapists, and parents).
The main goals of school-based physical therapy are to improve strength, balance, coordination, and/or mobility. Some examples of activities that a physical therapist targets for improvement include:
- Maintaining sitting balance in a classroom chair, on the floor during circle time, in the cafeteria, and on the school bus
- Moving from class to class and throughout the school campus – walking, using an assistive device (walker/gait trainer/wheelchair), walking up/down stairs (in school, on/off the bus)
- Navigating playground equipment, as well as other activities related to recess or gym class