School-based therapies focus on removing barriers from students’ ability to learn, helping students develop skills which increase their independence in the school environment, and educating school personnel about the different considerations required for students with disabilities. Everything the therapist does with students in school must be educationally relevant. The therapist evaluates, assesses, and accommodates functional abilities of students in school classrooms, hallways, and other designated areas. The therapists help students acquire functional abilities necessary to access educational materials and move about the school. To help students function better in classrooms, the lunchroom, or restrooms, therapists may work with them on adapting or modifying their equipment/materials.
Occupational and Physical therapy are considered related services and can only be provided after a student qualifies for special education services. School-based therapy needs are educationally based and do not replace the need for medically or clinically based therapies.
Students with a language impairment and/or a speech impairment can qualify for speech therapy services. A language impairment affects the student’s primary language functions in one or more of the following components: word retrieval, phonology, morphology, syntax, semantics, and pragmatics. Speech impairments may include fluency, articulation, and voice disorders that affect the student’s speaking behavior.
School Occupational Therapy focuses on the areas of fine motor, visual motor, and sensory motor skills involved with academics, social participation, play, and self-care. It may include daily living activities required for school functioning and movement throughout the school environment, including feeding and oral function, dressing, and toileting.
School physical therapy focuses on gross motor skills, a child's ability to move as independently as possible in the school environment, and be able to participate in all classroom activities. Physical therapist also instruct in the physical management of students, such as safe lifting, positioning, assisted ambulation, gross motor programs, vocational tasks, leisure activities, and/or equipment use, and the safe transportation of students.
Therapy - Models of Delivery
- Direct Therapy - The therapist interacts directly with students in small groups or one-on-one. Best practice to promote the least restrictive environment is brief, direct therapy, which develops a specific skill, phasing therapy out when students can incorporate skills into daily routines.
- Indirect or Consultation - Indirect or consultation is when therapists use their knowledge and skills to help students, without direct interaction between the two. Through collaboration with educational professionals or paraprofessionals, therapists enable someone other than themselves to implement specific activities. Monitoring involves regularly scheduled observations of students, and consultation with others supporting the student’s therapy program to evaluate desired outcomes.