Definition: Physical therapists work collaboratively with a student’s IEP team to improve student access and participation in school and community settings. Physical therapists provide professional expertise in the areas of self-help skills, foundational gross motor skills, mobility skills (transfers, walking, and equipment use), posture and positioning, and recreational skills for age-appropriate play. Physical therapy interventions promote skill acquisition and environmental adaptation and are commonly embedded within the context of student activities and routines.
Qualifications of a School Physical Therapist
Physical therapists must successfully complete a physical therapy program that is accredited by a nationally recognized accrediting agency and be licensed by the Colorado State Department of Regulatory Agencies.
Criteria for Receiving School Physical Therapy Services
Physical Therapy may be provided as a related service to support a student’s individualized educational program if:
The Student . . .
- requires regular monitoring and modification of physical strategies or equipment to maintain school accessibility and participation.
- has neuromuscular, orthopedic, or medical issues limiting their access and/or participation in school routines and environment.
- has poor functional motor skills limiting their ability to navigate the educational setting and/or participate in developmentally appropriate interactions with peers during recreational activities.
- has impaired mobility skills limiting their ability to navigate stairs, ramps, uneven terrain, or change positions effectively.
- has decreased independent living skills limiting their ability to manage personal needs in the cafeteria, bathroom, and locker room.
- due to a chronic condition, is at risk for developing complications that may limit school access and/or participation.
The Colorado Department of Education Physical Therapy listserv supports school-based PTs: 1) by providing information and news regarding the profession; 2) by announcing professional development and training opportunities; and, 3) by posting school-based job openings. There are no advertisements from vendors or contract-based companies. This service is also chat-free. Join today by contacting Jayne Dougherty @ Dougherty_j@cde.state.co.us.
Physical Therapy Advisory Council
The Exceptional Student Services consultant for PT along with regional PT representatives who comprise the Physical Therapy Advisory Council, meet throughout the year to inform the Colorado Department of Education on statewide PT professional learning and technical assistance needs and assist in the development of guidance materials to support the profession.
- American Physical Therapy Association - see Careers and Education
Tools and Resources
- OT/PT Brochure
- Technical Assistance: School Physical Therapist (PDF)
- Accredited Schools Online Physical Therapy
Accredited Schools Online has just put together a new guidebook for physical therapists and schooling options available to them. It is an in-depth guide that offers information about schooling required, career options, and facts about entering into the career field.
- Individual Disability Education Act (IDEA)
- Memo - Direct and Indirect Service (PDF)
- Memo - Speech Language Pathology Services, Occupational Therapy Services and Physical Therapy Services under the Rules for the Administration of the Exceptional Children's Educational Act, April 2009 (PDF)
- Section 504
- Direction and Supervision of the Physical Therapist Assistant (PDF)
- American Physical Therapy Association (APTA)
- Autism Society of Colorado
- Autism Speaks
- Autism Society of America
- CanChild Centre of Childhood Disability Research
- Department of Regulatory Agencies
- Mile High Down Syndrome Association
- Peak Parent Center
- Physical Therapy Brings Motion to Life
- Section on Pediatrics - APTA
- Special Olympics Colorado
For more information, please contact:
Jayne Dougherty, Principal Consultant OT/PT/APE
Email Jayne Dougherty
Phone: (303) 866-6668