Welcome to Occupational & Physical Therapy

  • Name: Susan Smith, M.ED.
    Title: Director, Exceptional Student Services
    Phone number: (928) 527-6171

    Name: Michele Moore
    Title: Account Specialist, Exceptional Student Services
    Email Address: mmoore@fusd1.org 
    Phone number: (928) 527-6160

    Who can get school-based therapy services? 

    • OT/PT is a related service, not a stand-alone service.
    • Student must be identified as having a disability that interferes with education under the criteria of IDEA.
    • OT/PT is not based on specific test scores or discrepancies, but rather on whether the unique expertise of the therapist is required for the student’s educational participation.
    • Medical diagnosis itself does not determine eligibility under IDEA.
    • The disability must “adversely affect the child's educational performance” (Part B).

    What is the definition of school-based therapy services under Federal Law IDEA?


    • Improving, developing, or restoring functions impaired or lost through illness, injury, or deprivation
    • Improving ability to perform tasks for independent functioning if functions are impaired or lost


    • Help a child with an educational disability benefit from his/her special education program in the least restrictive learning environment. Physical therapists address performance skills where a child’s disability impacts or compromises their ability to access, participate, and/or make progress in their natural learning environments.

    What does school-based therapy work on?


    • Fine motor deficits that impact academics
      • Fine motor dexterity (cutting, manipulatives, etc.)
      • Posture or seating if physical therapy is not involved
      • Imitating motor movements (circle time, fingerplays)
      • Bilateral coordination (using two hands to do two different things)
    • Visual Perceptual deficits that impact academics
      • Handwriting (fundamental motor skills related to handwriting – after formal instruction)
      • Letter formation
      • Sizing
      • Spacing
      • Typing
      • Visual sequencing (puzzles, etc.)
      • Figure ground (finding items in a competing background)
    • Sensory-based behaviors that impact academics
      • Oversensitivity
        • Student squints, covers ears, refuses messy play
      • Overstimulation
        • “Shuts down” when the environment is too noisy or busy
      • Seeking movement
        • Getting up out of seat frequently, frenetic movement
      • Seeking pressure
        • Sitting on feet, touching others excessively, crashing into things


    • Gross motor deficits that impact academics
    • Posture and positioning—Symmetry of positions, handling and transfer methods
    • Neuromuscular and musculoskeletal systems—Range of motion, control of muscle tone, muscle strength, endurance, gross motor coordination, and motor planning
    • Sensory processing—Equilibrium and protective reactions, proprioceptive and kinesthetic input, and bilateral coordination
    • Functional communication—Classroom positioning, recommendations for adaptive devices or equipment
    • Environmental adaptations—Evaluations and recommendations for modifications of architectural barriers and children’s equipment
    • Adaptive equipment—Skin care, recommendations for splints, bracing, and positioning devices
    • Functional mobility—Transfer skills, gait evaluation and recommendations, wheelchair mobility
    • Mobility and transfer skills—Adaptive equipment, wheelchair and equipment care, and use for self-help
    • Physiological function—Functional muscle strengthening, cardiorespiratory function and fitness, body mechanics, energy conservation techniques
    • Prevocational and vocational skills—Generally strengthening, sitting and standing tolerance, motor coordination, adaptive equipment
    • Education/communication—Information on disability and educational impact, staff training and development, liaison between medical and education staff (Martin, 1992)

    What is not is an OT/PT’s realm of practice?

    • Writing conventions
      • Capitalization and punctuation
      • Grammar
      • Content
    • Attention-seeking or escape behaviors
      • Behaviors that can be remediated with a positive behavior plan, sticker chart, etc.
    • Students may have a diagnosed disability that impacts their motor skills BUT if it is not impacting their ability to participate in the educational program, then school-based related services are not indicated.


    • Personal trainer
      • Weight loss specialist/sports motivator
    • “Toe Walking”
      • How is this adversely impacting student’s education?
    • Acute orthopedic injuries
    • Students may have a diagnosed disability that impacts their motor skills BUT if it is not impacting their ability to participate in the educational program, then school-based related services are not indicated.

    When are school-based therapy services discontinued?  

    Discontinuing PT/OT services is warranted when the IEP/504 team determines that the child no longer requires the unique expertise of the occupational/physical therapist to achieve educational benefit. Factors in this decision include:

    • Child has met the functional goals.
    • Deficits are no longer interfering with the child’s ability to function within his/her educational program.
    • Strategies can be implemented by the current educational team.
    • Equipment and environmental modifications are in place and are effective.
    • Level of participation is within expectation for the child’s educational program.