The notion that “it takes a village” to raise a child has been quoted so often that it’s almost become a cliché. If you are a parent or educator, though, you know that the reason this phrase is used so often is because it’s true, especially for children with disabilities. The “village” that raises a child with a disability begins, of course, with his or her parents/caretakers, but it also includes teachers, school administrators, doctors, nurses, after-school personnel, coaches and numerous others. For some children with disabilities, their “village” includes Occupational Therapists (OTs) and/or Physical Therapists (PTs) as related service providers to support their early intervention or special education program implementation.
Occupational Therapists and Physical Therapists have much in common – both help people do things that they cannot presently do things they cannot presently do or cannot presently do without a great deal of difficulty. Occupational Therapists and Physical Therapists also have similar training, and in the state of Maryland, they must be licensed through the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. There are, however, some basic differences between OTs and PTs. Occupational Therapists focus on helping people with daily life skills (or “occupations”), including tasks that require fine motor skills, as well as self care skills. Physical Therapists are more likely to help with gross motor skills – the ones that use large muscles – and independent physical function and mobility. While there is overlap, an OT is more likely to work with students who have difficulty keyboarding on a computer, while a PT is more likely to work with students who have problems getting to the chair that is in front of the computer.
Some children with disabilities obtain therapeutic services from OTs and PTs in health care settings. School-based OTs and PTs are not in any way meant to replace those professionals. In early intervention and school settings, OTs and PTs focus on those problem areas identified by the Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP) or Individualized Education Program (IEP) team that are directly affecting the child’s involvement and progress in participation and learning. Children benefit from collaboration among their early intervention or school-based proivders and other healthcare providers.
Ultimately, OTs and PTs remove barriers for people.
The Early Intervention OTs and PTs work to overcome barriers, enabling children’s development and integration in family and community life such as participating in community play groups, library story time, and family mealtime. The School-based OTs and PTs specifically work to overcome barriers, enabling children’s participation in school activities, involvement in learning, and ability to demonstrate what they have learned.
This section of the site looks at these professionals – Occupational Therapists and Physical Therapists – who do essential work and are key members of the “villages” of many children facing challenges from birth through age 21.
The Maryland State Steering Committee for Occupational Therapy and Physical Therapy School-Based Programs provides support and resources around all kinds of statewide OT and PT-related issues. They also work to promote dialogue within the community of early intervention and school-based Occupational Therapists and Physical Therapists. You can download and read their Occupational Therapists and Physical Therapists Guide to Practice here.
NOTE: This guide is currently under revision as a result of policy and regulatory changes.
For more information regarding our services, you can now access literature defining our roles in the school setting, our delivery of service model and other answers to some frequently asked questions here. Take a moment to download the new OT/PT full color brochure here (legal-sized) or the individual pages of the brochure for easy distribution here
Service Delivery & Evidence-based Practice