As the start of school nears, children who are clumsy, walk awkardly or have poor strength, may also have difficulty at school. Often, these problems makes it difficult for children to participate in classroom activities or even complete their school work. If you suspect your child is having a problem, he or she might be eligible for physical therapy services at school.
Under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), Oklahoma school districts are required to provide special services to children with disabilities to ensure their educational needs are being met. School-based therapy is available to children ages 3-21, who are found to be eligible for related services, including occupational, physical and speech therapy.
A therapist evaluates a child being considered for related services and works with the child’s Individualized Education Program (IEP) team to determine if the child qualifies for a particular related service.
A school based physical therapist evaluates the child’s ability to function in the school environment, including the classroom, playground, cafeteria, etc. A school PT may make recommendations for physical therapy if the child demonstrates difficulty accessing these environments or participating with other children in these environments due to a disability. A school physical therapist may examine questions such as:
- Can the child safely ascend and descend stairs in the school?
- Can the child get up off the floor after circle time without assistance?
- Can the child sit in a classroom chair without assistance?
- Can the child manage a tray in the cafeteria without assistance?
- Can the child participate in appropriate activities at school independently?
- Can the child access the drinking fountain at school without loss of balance?
- Can the child walk through a busy hallway between classes safely?
- Can the child stand independently?
- Can the child walk safely and independently, walk safely with an assistive device (like a walker or forearm crutches), propel their wheelchair safely and independently through the school environment?
- Can the child access their locker without loss of balance?
- Can the child ascend and descend ramps safely in the school environment?
If a child qualifies for school-based PT then the physical therapist will work with that child to address their individual needs in the school environment.
– Laurel Johnson, PT, DPT