School Systems Help Students With Disabilities With Pediatric Physical Therapy

Current legislation requires that students with disabilities receive provision for care, one of which is pediatric physical therapy. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) is a federal law that governs public education for all children with disabilities, whether they live in Phoenix or Las Vegas. While this law is only mandated for children of legal school age, there is an optional program that covers children birth through three years. As of now, every state participates in all aspects of IDEA, meaning that infants and toddlers can receive pediatric therapy through their community.

How School-Based Physical Therapy Works

Every child with a disability receives an Individualized Education Program (IEP) through the school system. This plan outlines the educational goals of the child and a pediatric therapist is an integral part of the IEP team. The therapist may be an employee of the school system or work though a private agency. The therapist will work with school personnel to educate them on pediatric physical therapy practice and theory. Classrooms will be analyzed and the overall school environment studied to insure the child will meet all IEP goals.

The pediatric therapist will also work one-on-one with the child to help them access all areas of the school grounds, including restrooms, the cafeteria, classrooms, the library, and exit doors. Students needing extra help accessing the facilities will work with the physical therapist and an individual teacher’s aide.

Should a child need this therapy during the day, the IEP will outline the services provided by the therapist, including the location of the services. Therapists may bring special equipment needed for an exercises program that replaces the traditional physical education class. Therapists may also pull students out of the traditional classroom to work on fine or gross motor skills using puzzles or writing activities.

How Community-Based Physical Therapy Works

For children from birth to age three, there is no federal mandate that requires services for disabilities. However, all states currently provide services under Plan C of IDEA. Therapy for infants and toddlers follows the same protocol as therapy for school-aged children, except the services can be provided through any state agency.

Pediatric physical therapists still work from an individualized plan called the Individual Family Service Plan. (IFSP) This plan determines the need for physical therapy for small children and outlines where and how the services will be provided. Physical therapists may utilize a clinic, a school, or a community health center to perform this therapy services. The services provided through the IFSP are the same as those given by private clinics. Children and families will be taught how to function in daily life, receive education about their disability, and perform physical therapy exercises that promote mobility and independence.

The voluntary participation of each state in this program means that no family can be denied physical therapy services based on insurance coverage or the inability to pay. With the federal government’s concern for equal opportunities all families dealing with a developmental disability have the chance to take advantage of pediatric physical therapy.