Physical therapy services provided by licensed professionals are secured on a contractual basis in Bradford, Lycoming, Sullivan and Tioga counties. Licensed physical therapists provide diagnostic and evaluative, consultative and direct physical therapy services. To qualify for services, the student’s orthopedic, neurological and/or respiratory condition must interfere with their educational progress. The therapist consults with school personnel and parents to discuss proper classroom positioning, transfers, establishment of programs for gross motor, fine motor and gait skills, and adaptation for special needs.
The role of the physical therapist within the educational setting is to help students with physical impairments participate in school based or academic related activities needed for success in their educational program. Physical therapists work with the rest of the IEP team to establish goals based on specific student needs and implement intervention strategies and specially designed instruction based upon these goals and needs.
Therapists in the educational setting focus on interventions not already being performed by parents, nursing staff, and/or classroom aides on a daily basis. They are trained to instruct teachers, classroom aides, parents, etc. in proper and effective performance of stretching and strengthening activities, as well as the use of therapeutic tools such as walkers, gait trainers or standers to be carried out as part of each student’s daily routine.
In educational settings, physical therapists also address needs related to walking, wheelchair mobility, balance, classroom seating, leg strength and flexibility, and occasionally arm strength and flexibility. When necessary, physical therapists may also consult with a student’s physical education teacher regarding suggested adaptations or activities that could be used during physical education classes.
Students who demonstrate a functional disability which interferes with their ability to benefit from their educational program can be referred for physical therapy evaluation.
Areas to be addressed might include, but are not limited to, the following:
- postural control
- transfers / transitional movement
- ambulation (walking)
- wheelchair skills and mobility
- donning / doffing orthotics and prosthetics
- management of equipment within an educational environment
- motor components of communication
- motor components of prevocational or vocational skills
- neuromuscular, musculoskeletal or cardiopulmonary status that affects functional skills
- other gross motor skills
If you believe that your child should be evaluated by a physical therapist, please speak to the Special Education Coordinator within your home school district. For a preschool child, age 3 or older, please contact either the BLaST Williamsport office at (570) 323-8561 or the BLaST Canton office at (570) 673-6001 to begin the referral process.
All new requests for educationally related P.T. for school aged children are generated by the Special Education office and forwarded to the BLaST Intermediate Unit .Requests for service must include the following information:
- A prescription from a physician
- Parental Permission to Evaluate form
- Service Referral form from the school district for P.T. services
What Every Parent Needs to Know about Physical Therapy in an Educational Setting
Physical therapy services are most effective when they are incorporated as part of a student and family lifestyle adjustment rather than something that happens once or twice each week at school. Most activities used to address flexibility, strength, and mobility are minimally effective unless they are performed on a daily basis. Your child’s therapist is trained to instruct and guide you through these activities, make suggestions for home, and answer any questions you might have, but family participation is the key to the overall success of any physical therapy program.
Medical Model vs. Educational Model
With the transition out of Birth to Three and Three to Five Early Intervention programming, comes a transition from medically necessary to educationally necessary physical therapy services.
Physical therapy services in educational settings can differ greatly from physical therapy services provided in an Early Intervention program and/or outpatient clinical setting. It is important to remember that students are not automatically qualified for or entitled to educationally based physical therapy services simply because they continue to receive medically necessary services through another agency.
Medically necessary services often focus on achievement of developmental milestones, activities not specific to function or success in an educational setting, or treatment of acute medical conditions as an adjunct to other medical treatment. Physical therapy in an educational setting is provided to help students maximally benefit from their established educational program and focus on naturally occurring opportunities for them to practice and develop functional skills and motor competence of educationally related activities. Educationally based physical therapy sessions are often shorter than medically based physical therapy sessions for optimal utilization of time in an educational setting.
Physical Therapy: Service Delivery Modalities
Therapists will work with classroom teachers, parents and other team members to monitor a student’s status in an educational setting. They might make suggestions with regard to classroom modification or assistive equipment.
Therapists will teach an activity or intervention strategy to a parent, teacher or aide in order to make day-to-day care of the student more effective and efficient. Therapists will observe and assess the student and performance of daily activities on a regular basis.
DIRECT / SKILLED SERVICE
Therapists work directly with a student (one-on-one) for specifically identified needs to prevent loss of function or to increase function in an educational setting. Intervention is based on specific techniques used to address components of movement or to build on emerging skills to be used in the student’s educational environment. It is important to understand that direct therapy is not essential for every student. If teachers, aides or parents can appropriately implement a therapist’s suggestions with occasional support or supervision, indirect or consultative services may provide as much benefit to a student with less disruption of routine and schedule in their educational setting
For additional information, please do not hesitate to contact Amy Wolfhope, Supervisor of Therapy Services, at (570) 323-8561 ext. 1065 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.