What does a physical therapist do in a school?

  • Within the educational setting, physical therapy is provided to those students who require the service in order to benefit from education or to be maintained in the least restrictive environment.  A school based physical therapy program may include one or any combination of the following:

    • Positioning to maintain a stable, aligned posture for functional use of the arms and legs.
    • Development of mobility, including ambulation training, transfer training, and wheelchair use.
    • Range of motion to prevent or decrease deformities which might interfere with the functional use of extremities for educational tasks.
    • Strengthening of the muscular and/or respiratory systems to increase endurance and enable the student to remain in school for a full day.
    • Enhancement of motor experience and stimulation of sensorimotor prerequisite skills.
    • Recommendations for selection, adaptation, and training in the use of mobility equipment, materials, and seating to promote independence in the educational program.

    The school-based Physical Therapist looks at the student’s physical functioning and the impact it has on learning and mobility within the school environment.  Physical Therapy intervention is provided when there is evidence that the identified problem areas are interfering with the student’s ability to benefit from his or her educational program.


    The school-based Physical Therapist works as part of the multi-disciplinary team to develop and deliver an appropriate educational program.  The therapist achieves this through assessment of the student’s performance, program planning, and implementation.  Consultation with other school-based professionals and parents is utilized to identify needs and plan for appropriate intervention.  Periodic reassessment of performance insures efficiency of treatment.