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School based physical therapy is a related service to special education. A student with an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) is eligible to receive a related service, such as occupational or physical therapy, if that student requires the related service in order to benefit from his/her exceptional education programming. Physical therapy is an important part of the collaborative team that supports ESE students towards developing strategies for success in schools. The provision of therapy and outcome is based on the impact the disability has on educational performance rather than on the disability itself. Deciding whether a student may need physical therapy in order to benefit from exceptional education programming, requires the consideration of multiple factors. The physical environment, needs of the student, professional experience of the educators, specific programming currently in place are a few of the many context specific factors that determine whether a student requires a related service in order to benefit from his/her exceptional educational programming. If a student has an identifiable therapy need that does not affect the student’s ability to learn, function, and profit from the educational experience, therapy is not the responsibility of the school system.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • If I have a concern, what should I do? Share your concerns and observations with your child’s teacher or staffing coordinator. This may be done during an informal conference or as part of the Individual Education Plan (IEP) meeting.
  • What happens after I express my concerns? A student who is observed to have specific difficulties in functional mobility, balance, gross motor skills, or endurance and who has not responded to interventions in their primary Exceptional Student Education (ESE) program may be referred for a physical therapy evaluation. The evaluation will be scheduled once a referral and consent for re-evaluation are completed, signed by the parent/guardian, and forwarded to the OT/PT department. The student’s overall academic/developmental skills, physical skills and medical considerations are taken into account as part of the evaluation. The need for therapy intervention is based on the student’s level of performance, potential for improvement in the areas assessed, and level of support already provided by the ESE program.
  • How are Physical Therapy services provided? Intervention can be provided by direct service or consultation. Direct therapy intervention is a model in which the therapist is primarily responsible for working with the student and implementing strategies to address the areas of need. This information is shared with the teachers on a regular basis. Consultation is a model in which the therapist and teacher work collaboratively to come up with strategies to address student needs and the teacher is primarily responsible for working with the student. The therapist consults with the teacher on a regular basis to determine whether strategies are successful or require modification to meet student needs.

Contact Info

Elizabeth Padilla
Instructional Support
[email protected]

Jennifer Walsh
Occupational and Physical Therapy Lead
407-317-3200 ex 200-4182
[email protected]

Helpful Resources

American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA)

Florida Occupational Therapy Association (FLOTA)