Referrals to occupational therapy (OT) and/or physical therapy (PT) are made through the special education contact person at the student’s campus. Therapists respond by screening the student to determine what is interfering with learning, and if an occupational therapy or physical therapy evaluation is needed. The screening process includes observation of the student, review of student records, interviews with teachers and parents regarding the reason for referral, and completion of a screening document designed to identify problems in areas significant to participation in school activities.
If an evaluation is recommended, it is implemented in accordance with district policy and procedures. State licensure rules for physician referral must be followed. Assessment data is gathered from a variety of sources, including a review of existing evaluation data. Upon completion of the OT and/or PT evaluation, the therapist(s) will make a determination regarding whether occupation therapy and/or physical therapy are required to assist a child with a disability to benefit from special education. The evaluation is reviewed by the Admission, Review, and Dismissal (ARD) committee and is submitted to the student’s permanent file. Recommendations for frequency, time, location, and duration of intervention services are made to the ARD committee by the occupational therapist and/or physical therapist.
Students who need occupational and/or physical therapy services receive and benefit from a wide array of intervention methodologies. Therapists work collaboratively with other members of the student’s education team, and integrate their services into the student’s daily curriculum and activities to the greatest extent possible. To support a student’s individual education plan (IEP), suggestions for alternative approaches to classroom material or activities may be made by the OT and/or PT. Strategies may be provided for adapting the school environment to remove barriers or to enhance access to learning materials.
The therapist uses methods that include hands-on intervention to facilitate skill development and/or consultation with other education team members to ensure skills are generalized into all educational settings. Periodic checks of equipment and environments are also provided to ensure adaptation is made for developmental growth and/or changes in educational need. In-service training provided at the district, campus, or classroom level may also be appropriate.
From "Determining the Educational Need for OT and/or PT Services under IDEA: A Clinical Reasoning Model for School-Based Practice," Jean Polichino, MS, OTR, CHE, Harris County Department of Education
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