Tuesday, 4 September 2012



One common question asked by parents is what is the difference between physical therapy & occupational therapy services

provided through schools as a related special education service?

Both therapies are related services to special education & are provided only if the child needs therapy to function in the educational setting.

The role of  physical therapist & an occupational therapist is to facilitate a student's independent functioning & decrease the effects of a disability on his/her ability to participate in the educational setting & process.

The following is a general response to the difference between the two.

Physical Therapy (PT): emphasizes the acquisition of basic motor skills necessary for functional mobility about the school environment as well as the physical capability for participating with peers during education & recess.Areas of focus for the school physical therapist include:

  • Gross motor skills: activities that use large muscles

  • Mobility skills: moving safely throughout the school environment, including entering & exiting the school bus

  • Postural control & alignment needed to perform school activities & for increasing independence in life skills
Occupational therapy (OT):emphasizes the acquisition of or compensation for functional performance skills needed by students during their educational experience:
  • Fine motor skills: small, finely coordinated hand movements
  • Visual  perceptual skills: the ability to understand & interpret what is seen.
  • Visual motor skills: the ability to coordinate visual skills & motor skills 
  • Self care skills: feeding, dressing, hygiene,& toileting skills for increasing independence in necessary life skills
Both physical & occupational therapist may address the following areas:

  • Strength & endurance
  • Body awareness
  • Classroom positioning & adaptions 
  • Sensory motor skills necessary for participation in an educational program
Physical therapists & occupational therapist have similar training. Occupational therapists receive more training in oral & hand skill interventions & physical therapists receive more training gross motor & postural development. 

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