Physical Therapy

  • Physical Therapists

    Karen Shelberg

    Kelly Huber


    Physical Therapists are licensed by New York State, and work under a physician’s prescription.  Students are required to have a signed prescription before direct services can be initiated. Physical therapy focuses on a student’s ability to navigate throughout the school environment independently and safely, to participate in classroom activities, and to physically keep up with his/her peers.  Although the focus is on the physical development of the child, we incorporate all aspects of the student’s Individualized Education Plan when planning our treatment sessions, and work together with the educational team to provide an optimal learning experience.


    Job Description:  Physical Therapist

    Physical Therapists in an educational setting administer physical therapy treatments based on the recommendations of the Committee on Special Education.  These treatments may include instruction for muscle strengthening exercises, flexibility exercises, and coordination exercises, as well as development of balance, gross motor skills, and gait.  Depending on a child’s functional level, treatments may focus on wheelchair mobility, use of adaptive equipment, and navigating within the community.  Therapeutic massage may be indicated for student’s with hypertonicity (increased muscle tone/spasms), and facilitation of muscle tone for students with hypotonicity (decreased muscle tone).  Physical therapists also work closely with the student’s family to ensure carry over of goals at home through home exercise programs and communication as necessary via contact logs, e-mails, and phone communication.  Responsibilities of the therapist also include evaluations/screenings of students referred by the Committee on Special Education, and evaluations/screenings of those students referred by the Instructional Support Team.  Classified students receiving physical therapy services are also evaluated every three years.  The Physical Therapist is also responsible for developing goals, documenting progress, preparing written reports, presenting results of reports at meetings, providing in-services to the educational team, ordering equipment necessary for the student/clinic, maintaining equipment, and monitoring orthotic/adaptive equipment needs of students.

    Programs and Services:

    Direct Instruction- This service provides students instruction on an individual basis or in a small group setting, usually 2-3 students, however can be up to 5 students.  The duration and frequency is determined by the Committee on Special Education.  Most of the time direct instruction is provided as a pull out service and student sessions are completed in the physical therapy room, occasionally push in services are recommended.       


    Consulting Services- This service provides the expertise of a physical therapist to assist the teacher or other staff in identifying the student’s needs and designing activities or instruction to be implemented in the classroom program.  Often consultant services are recommended with the transitioning of a student from elementary to middle school, or middle to high school.  Student’s with orthotic/adaptive equipment needs often receive consultant services to ensure monitoring of the orthosis/adaptive equipment within the classroom.


    Evaluation Services-  Comprehensive evaluations include assessment of the student’s range of motion (muscle flexibility), muscle strength, muscle tone, reflexes, posture, gait, functional mobility, balance, coordination, physical developmental level, and gross motor skills.  The evaluation may include assessment of respiratory function, adaptive equipment/orthotic needs, and sensation.  Standardized testing including the Peabody Developmental Motor Scales-2nd Edition, The Bruininks-Oseretsky Test of Motor Proficiency-2nd Edition, The Gross Motor Function Measure, and the Test of Gross Motor Development are also utilized when evaluating a student’s physical performance.   Recommendations for evaluations come from the Committee on Special Education or The Instructional Support Team.


    Screening Services- Physical Therapy Screenings are available to determine whether a formal evaluation is warranted.  The decision is based on the therapist’s observations, teacher consultation, and checklists completed by both the classroom teacher and therapist.  Recommendations for screenings come from the Committee on Special Education or The Instructional Support Team. 


    Assistance for families- ordering orthotic/adaptive equipment from appropriate suppliers including letters of justification for insurance companies to procure device when deemed medically necessary. 


    Community Training- If appropriate, assess mobility skills within the community and provide training to facilitate safety and independence.