School-based physical therapy is designed to enhance the student’s ability to benefit from special education. Within the educational model, physical therapists assist students with the development and practice of gross motor skills, postural control, functional mobility (transfers, gait, or wheelchair mobility), endurance, strength, joint or trunk mobility, positioning for educational performance, and adapting equipment or modifications to architectural barriers.
Federal law mandates that physical therapy in schools be educationally relevant. With this premise, intervention in the educational setting is distinctly different from clinically based, medically necessitated treatment. Although medical conditions and/or a disability may be present, the student may receive physical therapy only if the condition and movement problem interfere with the student’s educational experience. Determining the need for physical therapy intervention must include observing the student within the educational environment and assessing his/her ability to meet the demands of the educational program and setting. To be placed on services an evaluation must first be completed by a physical therapist.
Physical therapy (PT) is a related service under Part B of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and is provided to help a student with a disability to benefit from education. As such PT is a supportive service. According to federal guidelines, a student must be eligible for special education before being considered for PT services in the schools under IDEA.