Welcome to the Therapy Services division of BLaST Intermediate Unit #17! Therapy services are an integral part of a comprehensive, individualized educational program for many students, allowing recipients greater access to and participation in their educational environments. Our highly qualified staff includes speech/language pathologists, contracted occupational therapists, certified occupational therapy assistants, and physical therapists.
Our certified and/or licensed professional therapy staff members provide comprehensive assessment and meaningful therapeutic intervention to eligible students ages 3-21 years attending any one of the nineteen school districts located within Bradford, Lycoming, Sullivan, and Tioga counties. Our specialized staff members are skilled in working with students having a wide variety of disabilities who are also in need of specially designed instruction to progress within the educational environment.
We are very proud of the high level of assistance our therapeutic staff members provide to students. Take a minute to check out a more detailed description of each therapy service below. If you feel your child may benefit from any of the services, please contact the Special Education Coordinator in your respective school district to discuss your concerns.
Educationally Based Occupational Therapy Services
BLaST Intermediate Unit 17 contracts with ESS to provide educational support to students with physical and developmental disabilities. Occupational therapy services are directed toward helping students access and participate in their educational environment, by using intervention strategies and specially designed instruction. Comprehensive occupational therapy evaluations are completed by licensed occupational therapists and meaningful therapeutic interventions can be carried out by licensed therapists or certified occupational therapy assistants.
The student’s needs may include, but are not limited to:
- Fine motor skills
- Eye-hand coordination
- Visual skills
- Daily living tasks
- Sensory processing concerns (how a student reacts to stimulation within their environment)
Service Delivery Options
Occupational therapy intervention strategies should focus on skills needed to function appropriately within the curriculum. Services may be provided by consultation or direct intervention. Consultation involves working with the student and the team to assist in developing strategies to enhance student performance. Direct intervention is when a therapist works with a student on specific occupational therapy goals. Occupational therapy services may also be a combination of both consultation and direct intervention.
The occupational therapist is an integral part of the educational team. Services may be delivered by an occupational therapist or by a certified occupational therapy assistant. The occupational therapy assistant works closely with the occupational therapist to implement appropriate interventions and monitor student progress.
Clinical vs. Educational Therapy
Therapy conducted in the school is not the same as therapy conducted in a medical setting or a clinic. Therapy differs in these two settings in terms of:
- Role of the Therapist
- Size of caseloads
- Type of support
Clinical therapy is usually undertaken as an adjunct to medical treatment for acute and chronic conditions. Under the provisions of Public Law 101-476, the Individuals with Disabilities Act, occupational therapy in school settings is considered to be a related service, provided to children so they may benefit from special education services.
If you feel a child/student may benefit from occupational therapy, please speak with any member of the student’s educational team. If the educational team agrees, the school district will initiate the proper paperwork, which may include a physician’s prescription. 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.
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 daily. 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 the 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 in 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.
Service Delivery Options:
- Consultation Service: 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 regarding classroom modification or assistive equipment.
- Indirect Service: Therapists will teach an activity or intervention strategy to a parent, teacher, or aide to make day-to-day care of the student more effective and efficient. Therapists will observe and assess the student and the performance of daily activities regularly.
- 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.
Speech and Language Support
BLaST Intermediate Unit 17’s highly qualified speech/language support staff members provide comprehensive assessment and meaningful educational support services for students who demonstrate a speech and/or language impairment.
Based on the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and Pennsylvania’s Chapter 14, the State Standards and Regulations which govern Special Education, the definition of speech and language support is: “Services for students with speech and language impairments who require services primarily in the areas of communication or use of assistive technologies designed to provide or facilitate the development of communication capacity or skills”.
A speech and language impairment, which substantially interferes with educational progress, may be characterized by any of the following disorders:
- Articulation/Phonology Disorder: Incorrect production of phonemes beyond developmental timelines or motor-based disorders. Misarticulations include substitution, omission, distortion, or addition of phonemes and phonological process errors.
- Voice Disorders: An abnormality of pitch, loudness, or quality resulting from pathological or inappropriate use of the vocal mechanism that interferes with communication.
- Fluency Disorders: A disruption in the normal flow of verbal expression which occurs frequently or is noticeable and not controlled by the speaker. These disruptions occur to a degree that the speaker and/or listener are distracted; therefore, the communication process is impeded.
- Language Disorders: A disability resulting in marked impairment to use or comprehend language. Deviations from accepted norms are noted in syntax, morphology, semantics, pragmatics, and language processing which affect the academic achievement and/or psychosocial adjustment of the individual.
- Central Auditory Processing: A Central Auditory Processing Disorder (CAPD) is an observed deficiency in sound localization and lateralization, auditory discrimination, auditory pattern recognition, temporal aspects of audition, use of auditory skills with competing acoustic signals, and use of auditory skills with any degradation of the acoustic signal.
The assessment of Central Auditory Processing Disorders (CAPD) is a crossover area between the two professions of audiology and speech-language pathology and requires a cooperative effort among parents, teachers, speech-language pathologists, audiologists, and other professionals for a successful outcome. Speech-language pathologists contribute to the assessment process by formally evaluating receptive language and phonemic processing skills and by documenting observed auditory processing behaviors.
Service Delivery Options
Speech/Language intervention strategies should focus on developing communication skills needed to function appropriately in the educational environment. Services may be delivered through a variety of models such as individual therapy, group therapy, or classroom-based therapy.
The speech therapist may act as a consultant in assisting the educational team in developing strategies for other team members (such as parents, teachers, paraprofessionals, etc.) to enhance the student’s communication abilities. Speech and language services may also be a combination of both consultation and direct intervention. The speech therapist is an integral part of the educational team. Proficient speech and language skills are important to the overall academic success of the child. Communication disorders may impact the student’s performance in the areas of speaking, reading, writing, comprehension, and social skills.
If you feel your child or a student you know may benefit from speech and language therapy, please speak with any member of the student’s educational team. If the educational team agrees, they will initiate the proper paperwork to begin the assessment process. Should the child/student be found eligible for speech/language support services, an Individualized Education Program (IEP) will be developed based on the specific needs of the child/student. 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.