School-Based Physical Therapy

There are numerous settings physical therapists (PTs) and physical therapist assistants (PTAs) are able to work in. A fun and interesting choice is school-based PT. In a school setting, the therapist is responsible for 1) determining if the child would benefit from physical therapy services and 2) implementing a treatment plan to increase strength, coordination, and balance to improve overall safety and function in the school environment. Physical therapy in the schools allows for improvements in strength, balance, and coordination as well as improve overall endurance and assist with childhood obesity. Physical therapy in the school is unique as it followings exact specifications noted in the child's Individualized Education Plan (IEP) for 504 plan. These plans follow the child throughout school and are updated yearly.

According to the Pediatrics American Physical Therapy Association, a child having age-appropriate gross motor skills is an important aspect that is essential to be successful academically. Examples of what school-based therapy assists with are proper sitting posture at both the desk and circle time in the floor in the classroom, safely getting from class to class and other transitions made throughout the school, and increasing participation in recess and PE class. To assist with this, the PT sessions will focus on improving strength and coordination by performing activities such as jumping jacks, squats, skipping, balance work, and much more. Physical therapy can also assist the student in learning how to use equipment such as walkers, wheelchairs, and braces if those options are the functional use of navigation at schools.

What children would benefit from school-based PT?

  1. Certain medical diagnoses (Autism, cerebral palsy, Duchenne's Muscular Dystrophy, etc.)
  2. Gross motor delays
  3. Inability to navigation school environment safely and independently
  4. Inability to maintain upright sitting position in various school activities

Physical therapy administered at school can be very beneficial in the success in the school setting. Gains made in coordination and strength can directly apply and assist with focus and ability to participate in the classroom, PE class, and recess to facilitate an optimal and functional school environment.

-Amy Smith, PT, DPT

References Published 2021. Accessed November 16, 2021.

Examples of School-Based Physical Therapy | Center for Autism Research. Published 2021. Accessed November 16, 2021.