Dominiczak Therapy Associates (DTA) therapists provide Occupational and Physical therapy in a school setting using individualized and specialized interventions for students having difficulty with Personal Care, Mobility, Gross Motor, Fine Motor, Visual Motor/Perception, and Sensory Processing skills. DTA therapists have experience with a wide variety of pediatric diagnoses and treatment strategies that focus on helping children attain their maximal functional independence in the following areas:
•Self help skills
•Mobility and environmental access
•Assistive Technology needs
•Self regulation behaviors
•Prevocational and transition needs
•Multiple years of school based experience working with students from early childhood to high school age
•Knowledge regarding all aspects of IEP development pertaining to therapy as well as Medicaid Billing
•Experience with all educational disability areasClick here for another resource for classroom tips
Although school therapists are typically only involved with students receiving special education they can offer general suggestions for some of the more common issues seen in regular classrooms. We offer an OT Tips resource binder that addresses common handwriting and self-help difficulties for elementary children. It contains classroom-based strategies that can be used with all children in your class. Your school physical therapist may be able to provide you with movement activities for the whole class to address strength, flexibility and coordination. While current practice regulations and licensure laws prohibit us from offering student-specific solutions unless the child is receiving special education, the general classroom-based activities are often quite successful for both the individual student of concern and for the entire class.
In addition to classroom-based suggestions, school-based physical and occupational therapists may have other roles in the school setting. These roles are at the universal level, such as team teaching and providing professional development. An occupational therapist may provide services that are likely to improve occupational performance for all students in a school. In educational terminology, this approach is often called a universal intervention. Examples are consulting on an ergonomic seating plan, contributing to the design of a playground, developing a backpack awareness program, mentoring teachers in a cognitive-sensory program for self-regulation, and assisting in the development of a school wide handwriting curriculum. Similarly, a school physical therapist may provide services at the universal level. The physical therapist may also consult on ergonomic seating, help develop backpack programs, and contribute to playground design. In addition, the physical therapist may provide prevention, fitness, and wellness activities as part of universally designed programs for all students. The physical therapist may collaborate with the physical education instructor to adapt the gym environment, equipment, or curriculum so that students with varying levels of strength, stamina, and endurance are able to participate in wellness and fitness activities. (From Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction)
When a child has difficulty in school, teachers should identify the tasks and environments in which the child is not progressing or participating, try the educational accommodations or interventions that they think will support the child and monitor the child's response. If a child is suspected of having a disability, teachers may think about occupational therapy or physical therapy as related services to special education. Use of a checklist supplied by the OT or PT can help teachers focus on areas that occupational therapy and physical therapy typically support. (From Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction)
Because physical and occupational therapy are related services to the special education program, a sequence of decision making occurs to determine whether occupational or physical therapy is needed to help a child benefit from that program. This decision making process may occur at the initial Individualized Educational Plan (IEP) meeting if a child has been evaluated for occupational or physical therapy, but should also occur at every annual IEP meeting if a child is receiving occupational or physical therapy. Only after a complete discussion of a student's strengths and concerns can the IEP team determine relevant goals and outcomes of the educational program. The addition of physical or occupational therapy to a child's program occurs only when needed to support those educational goals and programming. (See also Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction)
First, therapists are taught that it is actually GOOD to "graduate" students from our services when the goals have been met. Our goal is to improve a student's skills to a point where either the student is accomplishing the task on their own, or the staff who support the student on a daily basis can work toward the goals without the therapist present. Second, the mandate for Least Restrictive Environment (LRE) requires the IEP team to always look at the LEAST amount of intervention necessary for the student to reach his or her goals. That doesn't always mean "more service is better service." So, instead of trying to avoid changes in service delivery, have a discussion with the therapist about what indications might warrant a reduction in therapy allowing the classroom take over, moving toward generalizing skills within expected school routines.
Section 504 is a Federal Statute that covers qualified students with disabilities who attend schools receiving Federal financial assistance. To be protected under Section 504, a student must be determined to: 1) have a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities; 2) have a record of such impairment, or 3) be regarded as having such impairment. Section 504 requires that school districts provide a free and appropriate public education (FAPE) to qualified students in their jurisdictions who have a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities. Physical or occupational therapy may be provided if the services are needed to allow the student access to the educational program.
All services provided under an Individual Educational Plan must be provided in the least restrictive environment. Federal law defines the least restrictive environment as follows: "to the maximum extent appropriate, children with disabilities are educated with children who are not disabled." The strong preference in the law is that the child will be educated using the general education curriculum in the regular education classroom. This preference reflects Congress' intent that special education is a service, not a place. Although inclusion is often used interchangeably with the LRE provisions, Part B does not require that every child with a disability participate in the regular education classroom. Recognizing that the regular education setting and/or general education curriculum may not be appropriate for every child with a disability, local education agencies are required to make available a range of service, location, and building options (a "continuum of alternative placements") to meet the unique educational needs of students with disabilities.
As long as your district has a contract with us, we will make every effort to maintain continuity in the therapist(s) working with your child. We understand the importance of having rapport with students, staff and caregivers and share the goal of maximizing potential in the students in which we service. Therapists are generally assigned schools based on proximity and the needs within each school.
This publication from DPI is a comprehensive resource you might find useful.
Address issues that prevent students from participating fully in their educational environment: i.e. classroom tool use, arrival/departure routine, mobility in the school building, written assignments. Intervention may or may not be provided directly with the child present. Collaborating with school staff to modify the environment and school routines is always a part of school-based therapy.
IEP team and parents determine and prioritize needs of the student. They may develop goals and recommend OT/PT services designed to meet these needs in school.
Outpatient- Based OT/PT
Address issues that prevent children from performing skills and activities at home or in the community: i.e. play, dressing, home mobility, quality of movement. The therapist generally works with the child individually and may use a greater array of services and modalities (e.g. electrical stimulation) not ordinarily needed in a school setting.
Agencies/Insurance Companies reimbursing therapy services contribute in determining amount and frequency of OT/PT services. Goals and objectives are set by the therapist with family input.
The objectives in outpatient-based therapy may be related, unrelated or complementary to the objectives in school-based therapy.
Skills that a school-based occupational therapist may work on:
Written assignments, organization, collaborating with classroom staff to modify the classroom or adapt learning materials/classroom tools to facilitate successful participation at school, arrival/departure routine and cares.
Skills that a school-based physical therapist may work on:
Travel into and out of the school, mobility/transitions around the school building, functional seating/positioning for the classroom, participation with peers in recreational activities such as recess or PE and safety/accessibility in school activities.
Our therapists will create a specialized "home program" for you and your child. Your therapist can establish a number of ways to communicate with you throughout the school year. Depending on the preference of the parent, we have found success using communication log books, phone calls and emails. We also provide periodic updates on your child's progress and what is being done during school therapy, which allows you to continue to address some of those skills at home.
Physical education (PE), specially designed or regular, must be provided to children with disabilities receiving a free appropriate public education. A child with a disability may be exempted from PE when a doctor's statement confirms it would be detrimental to the health and well-being of the student to participate.
Adaptive PE – diversified program of developmental activities, games, and sports suited to the interest, capacities and limitations of students with disabilities.
Specially Designed PE (SDPE) - designed instruction, at no cost to the parents, to meet the unique needs of a child with a disability. SDPE is provided by any licensed PE teacher.
When physical therapy is provided to a child it may not be used to fulfill the PE program requirement. PT is a related service whereas PE is a component of the educational program that is required for ALL children. (See DPI Bulletin 08.01 for more detailed information)
Here are some informative links you may find useful for your classroom: