MONTANA PUBLIC SCHOOLS GUIDELINES FOR
THE PROVISION OF OCCUPATIONAL THERAPY AND PHYSICAL THERAPY SERVICES
Occupational therapy practitioners are occupational therapists (OTs) and occupational therapy assistants (OTAs) who use meaningful activities (occupations) to help children and youth participate in what they need and/or want to do in order to promote physical and mental health and well-being. Occupational therapy addresses physical, cognitive, social/emotional, sensory, and other aspects of performance. In schools, occupational therapy practitioners focus on academics, play and leisure, social participation, self-care skills, and transition/work skills. Occupational therapy’s expertise includes activity and environmental analysis and modification with a goal of reducing the barriers to participation. Occupational therapy practitioners are related service professionals (specialized instructional support personnel) who provide a continuum of services and support under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (AOTA: Early Intervention and School Special Interest Section FAQs). Occupational therapy services take place in school settings during the natural routines of the school day. The OT services support academics, behavior, and functional performance. The OT practitioner collaborates with parents and school staff to create solutions, taking into account the child, the activity, and the setting.
Physical therapy takes place in school settings during the natural routines of the school day. The PT services support academics, behavior, and functional performance. The school-based physical therapist collaborates with parents and school staff to create solutions, taking into account the child, the activity, and the setting. Physical Therapists work collaboratively with a student’s IEP team and participate in screening, evaluation, program planning, and intervention. As a member of the IEP team, physical therapists design and implement physical therapy interventions including teaching and training of family and education personnel, and measurement and documentation of progress – to help the student achieve his/her IEP goal. Physical therapists assist students in accessing school environments and benefitting from their educational program (APTA Fact Sheet Section on Pediatrics 2004). A physical therapy practitioner may provide services in various areas of school function related to a student’s ability to access the educational environment, including, but not limited to, school mobility (a student’s ability to access various areas of the school via walking, wheelchair or other means of mobility); classroom activities (functions related to participating physically and maneuvering within the classroom environment, accessing the lunchroom, playground, bathroom,
transportation, etc.); and posture/positioning (maintaining or changing posture and/or positioning as it relates to school-based activities) (APTA: Physical Therapy in School Settings and the New York City Department of Education School-Based Occupation Therapy and Physical Therapy Practice Guide, Fall 2011).
Physical Therapy and Occupational Therapy as a Related Service
Under IDEA, the school district is responsible for providing related services and not medical services. A related service is one which is needed to assist the child with a disability to benefit from his or her special education. Physical therapy or occupational therapy services will be provided by the school district as a related service only when the child’s special education program
The presence of medical conditions, injuries and disabilities does not automatically dictate the need for physical therapy or occupational therapy services in the school system. Some students with disabilities may be in regular education programs without the need for any special modifications to the regular education curriculum and are not considered in need of special
education services. Likewise, many students who receive special education services may not need occupational therapy
or physical therapy as a related service in order to benefit from their educational program.