Physical Therapy in the School Setting

Physical Therapy in the School Setting

Physical Therapy in the School Setting

Physical Therapy in the School Setting

There are any number of reasons why a child may require physical therapy in the school setting. Whether injury, illness, or disability-related, physical therapists, as part of the IEP team, are a critical part of a student’s physical and academic development. Physical therapists not only act as a resource for the student and his family, but also as a benefit to the educators who work with the student.


When students require physical therapy, their abilities and limitations can vary vastly from one case to the next. However, teachers should be aware of the different needs and options for accommodations so that students are reaching their academic goals, as well as the physical goals created by the physical therapist. Below are general guidelines and recommendations for accommodating students with any level of physical limitations in the classroom.


Need or Limitation Accommodation Additional Considerations
Difficulty sitting in a chair for long periods of time Allow for preferential or flexible seating. Some teachers use beanbags, swing chairs/hammocks, floor cushions, stools, or even standing desks that allow students the option of what is most comfortable or
Get clarification from the PT so that you know exactly what the student can and cannot be expected to do. Open communication will ensure that expectations are met and PT progress is not being compromised.

Consider allowing the student to sit on a chair at the end of a lunch table, as opposed to the standard backless cafeteria benches. More support will ensure that the child can still sit with his friends during
lunch without issue.

Difficulty moving about the classroom or throughout the building Depending on the constraints of the classroom, teachers may be able to place a student in an area of the room where there are less obstructions, such as away from the door, pencil sharpener, cabinets, bookshelf, etc.

Consider allowing the student to dismiss 1-2 minutes early or arrive to class 1-2 minutes after the late bell. When mobility is an issue, crowded hallways and stairwells can be intimidating and downright dangerous
for some students. A head start before the bell will ensure that the student encounters less hallway traffic during passing time.

The key is to allow for enough space so that the student can work on her mobility without feeling confined by obtrusive furniture; she needs to be able to move without feeling restricted. However, you also want to be sure that a student receiving PT services is not ostracized or singled out in any way.

If grouping students, ensure that everyone is part of a triad or foursome, but be thoughtful of the best possible seat to provide the most space within the group.

Difficulty carrying books, binders, lunch trays, etc. Allow the student to carry a bookbag or drag a wheeled backpack during transitions between classes.Offer the student the option to use a wheeled cart in the cafeteria for lunch trays.
Difficulty entering or exiting the bus

Assign a bus buddy to assist the student with boarding and deboarding.

Reserve seating in the front of the bus to reduce the amount of walking through the narrow aisle.

Be sure that the bus driver, as well as any substitute bus driver, knows to drop the students off at or near a sidewalk ramp.
Poor balance/coordination Adapted physical education courses allow for even the most severely-impacted students to participate in physical education. Adapted phys. ed. allows students the opportunity to work on skills in a low-risk setting where
progress is key, not perfection.
Remind student to utilize handrails while climbing up or down the stairs.Be sure to point out any caution signs or spills that may pose a threat to an already compromised walker.



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