The principle roles of the school-based physical therapist are to optimize a student's function and to facilitate a student's ability to benefit from their educational program. School-based physical therapy service must contribute to the development, improvement, or maintenance of the student's functional level within the educational curricula and within the school environment, including some of the following areas: bus, classroom, hallway, bathroom, cafeteria, doors, gym, stairs, and playground.
Areas of intervention for physical therapy in the schools can include many different educational aspects, depending on the needs of the individual student. PTs often address gross motor development dealing with balance, coordination, gait, mobility training, motor control, motor planning, aerobic endurance, flexibility, and strengthening. PTs also work on enhancing a student’s ability to learn through functional training in school activities dealing with stair navigation, positioning, transfer training, negotiating playground equipment, energy conservation techniques, hygiene, toileting, helping with preparation for vocational needs, and motor learning in the outside environment, including safe ambulation on sidewalks, curbs, ramps, and uneven terrain in the school setting.
Another significant area of PT intervention in schools includes the prescription, training, and use of adaptive equipment to enhance a student's safety and to facilitate independence. Examples of appropriate adaptive equipment utilized by PTs include the following categories: assistive devices (crutches, canes, walkers, wheelchairs), power devices (motorized wheelchairs), adaptive devices (seating systems, toileting systems, grab bars; supine, prone, or dynamic standers), orthotic devices (braces, shoe inserts), protective devices (cushions, helmets), and supportive devices (hoyer lifts). Promoting competency and safety of educational staff in the areas of body mechanics, handling techniques, equipment considerations, motor skills, and classroom adaptations are also important roles of the school PT. In addition, preventing further disability and promoting health via appropriate education of students, family, and staff members are other important physical therapy interventions utilized by school-based PTs in order to improve a student’s ability to be as successful, safe, and independent as possible in their educational program.
Check out the website links at the right for fun ideas to enhance gross motor skill development.