Physical Therapy in Special Education is considered to be a "related service" under IDEA (the Individuals with Disabilities Act). “Related Services” are a wide array of supportive services provided to children with disabilities to assist them with benefitting from Special Education. IDEA defines related services as “transportation and such developmental, corrective, and other services necessary for a child with a disability to benefit from special education”. Per Section 346.l.(a) of the Texas Board of Physical Therapy Examiners (TBPTE) Rules revised January, 2016: “In the educational setting, the physical therapist conducts appropriate screenings, evaluations, and assessments to determine needed services to fulfill educational goals. When a student is determined by the physical therapist to be eligible for physical therapy as a related service defined by Special Education Law, the physical therapist provides written recommendations to the Admissions Review and Dismissal (ARD) Committee as to the amount of specific services needed by the student (i.e., consultation or direct services and the frequency and duration of services).”
The role of the school-based physical therapist is to work with both the student and the educational staff, including other related services personnel, to facilitate the acquisition of functional school skills. Per Section 346.1.(c) of TBPTE rules: “The physical therapist may provide general consultation or other physical therapy program services for school administrators, educators, assistants, parents and others to address district, campus, classroom or student-centered issues.” In Lewisville ISD this is done using an integrated service delivery model. The goal is to have all members of the educational team work toward the same goal(s), and to limit the time the student is removed from the classroom setting.
Services provided by the P.T. can occur in a variety of settings, including the classroom, motor room, gym, playground, hallway, cafeteria, bathroom, etc. PT services are provided using a variety of intervention methodologies, including direct service and consultation with staff. Per Section 346.1.(d) of TBPTE rules: “The types of services which may require a physician's referral in the educational setting include the provision of individualized specially designed instructions, and the direct physical modeling or hands-on demonstration of activities with a student.”
A key role of the PT is to provide the student with appropriate positioning and mobility equipment (assistive technology), and to make sure the equipment is maintained for safety. The PT is responsible for training staff members on safe transfers techniques, to decrease risk of injury to both the student and to staff members.
Physical therapists may offer “motor labs” to a variety of classroom settings, including the Pre-K/PPCD classes. The goal of “motor labs” is to facilitate the development and practice of gross motor skills, which can benefit classroom performance. These are often activities that can be incorporated into the regular classroom routine, and benefit the gross motor development of all students in that classroom setting, not just those with PT services.
Physical therapists appreciate when parents are interested in home programs, private therapies paid for by the family, and community activities to supplement the intervention plan. PTs are happy to share information of opportunities available in the LISD area. The more opportunity a student has to work on a skill, the more likely the goal will be successfully achieved. PTs collaborate with equipment supply vendors, families, and private PTs/OTs to order personal wheelchairs, custom orthotics, etc. that students will use at school and in the community. LISD can assist with completing the forms required for insurance and/or Medicaid billing.