The need for early intervention and school-based Occupational Therapists and Physical Therapists was deemed so significant that it is part of a federal law. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) requires that all children suspected of having a disability be assessed to determine if there is a need for early intervention or special education. As part of the evaluation team, the OTs and the PTs contribute to the evaluation process by addressing specific concerns in areas impacting a child’s participation and learning, which requires the therapist’s unique expertise.

If the child’s IFSP team decides that the child has a disability and is in need of early intervention , any Occupational Therapists and/or Physical Therapists services that are recommended are included in that child’s IFSP.

If the child’s IEP team decides that a student has a disability and is in need of special education, any occupational therapy and/or physical therapy services that are recommended are included in that student’s Individualized Education Program (IEP) as – “Related Services”.

As per the IDEA, the OT and the PT services must be delivered to children in the Natural Environment (NE) or Least Restrictive Environments (LRE), whenever possible. In many cases, these services can be provided to children with disabilities during the course of a typical day.  For children receiving early intervention services, this typically occurs in natural environments such as the home or community.  For students receiving special education and related services, this typically occurs in the general education classroom.

Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 addresses children who have disabilities, but do not require special education services under the IDEA. Under Section 504, these children can be provided with accommodations and services to help them access the general education curriculum. In some cases, these accommodations and services can include the services of the OT and/or the PT.

Tips

  • Understanding School-Based OT/PT Decision Making helps families better understand the decision making around school-based OT/PT services
  • One of the basic tenets of Universal Design for Learning (UDL) is that reducing learning barriers for one child can reduce learning barriers for many children. The early intervention and school-based Occupational Therapists and Physical Therapists are all about reducing learning barriers. Learn more about how these services can dovetail nicely with UDL here.