Physical Therapy in the Classroom

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Since another school year is starting, it’s important for you to understand the roles of each pediatric therapist working with your child in the classroom environment.  Physical therapy works on your child’s mobility, balance and coordination in order to help them interact with others during daily activities.   Some of the areas physical therapists assess include:

Targeted Areas of Development:

  • Seating – how well the child is supported during classroom activities
  • Positioning – how the child can move and be positioned during classroom and school activities
  • Balance – how stable the child is while sitting, standing and walking
  • Coordination – how well the child moves and interacts with their environment
  • Functional Skills – how well the child can function independently during activities

What to Look for in the Classroom:

  • Toe walking – walking on their tip-toes
  • “W” sitting – sitting with their knees together and feet out with legs in a “w” shape
  • Poor posture – slouching, or seems really stiff and awkward
  • Unsteadiness while sitting, standing or walking
  • Fidgety
  • Difficulty interacting or keeping up with peers on the playground or in PE

When to Refer for an Evaluation:

  • Child consistently toe walks
  • Child “w” sits when seated on the floor
  • Child seems “floppy” or “stiff”
  • Child trips or falls while walking and running
  • Child has difficulty staying seated in one position
  • Child has difficulty playing on the playground

How to Work Together:

  • Since PT must be educationally based, the PT goals must correlate to the general curriculum.  It’s important for teachers to communicate with the PT about how the child is doing in the classroom.
  • PT will most likely work with the child during classroom activities, gym class or PE. 
  • Most children have PT as a “consultation” or “indirect” service. Teachers and parents can help by keeping data and communicating with the PT on a regular basis.

Now It’s Your Turn:  What activities is your child working on during physical therapy?

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