The Role of a Physical Therapist (PT) in the School Setting:
A physical therapist is a licensed healthcare professional that assesses, treats, and/or makes recommendations to improve or maintain a student's level of functioning. In the school environment, this includes addressing musculoskeletal development/posture, functional mobility, components of movement, adaptive equipment needs, and environmental adaptations.
When to Refer to a PT for Screening?
Student's bilateral or motor coordination, mobility or gross motor skills impact academic participation and success.
In combination with a suspected gross motor delay in balance, locomotion, or object manipulation (ball) skills, a student demonstrates challenges following verbal directions to complete actions in the academic setting in a timely manner.
A student has physical impairments, e.g., decreased strength or range of motion, that impact academic participation.
How to Initiate Services?
When a student is displaying difficulty in the school setting and has not responded to tier 1 interventions completed with fidelity, the student assistance team (SAT) process should be initiated. The intervention specialist or other designated staff member at the school is responsible for coordinating the SAT process. The SAT team can include many individuals, like physical therapists, occupational therapists, teachers and parents. During this time, the OT or PT may complete a screening, after parent permission has been obtained, and propose additional interventions.
A minimum number of two SAT meetings are to be completed with documentation on interventions attempted and the response to that intervention prior to a special education referral being signed by the parent or guardian. After the referral has been signed a full evaluation for OT or PT services may be conducted.