Federal law (IDEA) lists physical therapy as a related service that “may be required to assist a child with a disability to benefit from special education”. Therapy support provided by schools is essential to helping a student perform in the context of his/her educational program. This Educational model of providing PT is different than the medical/clinical model of providing physical therapy services. A child may qualify for therapy in the medical setting, but if his/her disability doesn’t impede school function, they do not require school PT services.
When making the decision to include PT as a related service, the team may want to consider these questions to help lead the discussion: If the student does not receive physical therapy services, is there reason to believe that he/she will not (a) have access to an appropriate education and (b) experience educational benefit? If ‘Yes’- Provide PT as a related service. If ‘No’, then ask ‘Will physical therapy help?’ If ‘Yes’ - Consider medically-based physical therapy services (outside of school hours).