What Role does a Physical Therapist play in the schools?
A Physical Therapist in the school setting is there to assist the educators in facilitating a learning environment for success. This means that unlike a private Physical Therapist (one in a hospital or clinic), the school P.T. is concerned with assuring that each child is capable of functioning in the school setting. For instance: Can a child with muscle weakness independently climb the steps to make it to class? Is the building accessible for the child? Can the child walk efficiently enough to make it to class on time? Does the child have sufficient range of motion and strength to allow him/her to sit in a classroom chair, maneuver safely on the playground equipment or stand up from the floor?
While there are orthopedic or neurological problems that occur in some children, it is the school P.T.'s responsibility to intervene on the behalf of these children when these problems interfere with their education. If a child undergoes surgery and requires daily range of motion exercises, this is not the realm of the school but rather private P.T. If a surgery prevents the child from maneuvering as he/she did prior to surgery, it would become an area for a school P.T. to address (e.g. wheelchair mobility, instruction in use of walker/canes for walking).
It is always important that the parent/educators/P.T., etc. work to identify problem areas for the child and provide necessary assistance to maximize the child's learning potential.