Physical Therapy

Physical therapists in the public school system provide services to children with disabilities that interfere with their educational needs. In a school setting, a major goal of physical therapy is to address gross motor deficits that directly affect a child's ability to participate in the educational process. If a student's ability to participate in the educational process is compromised by a physical disability, then intervention by a physical therapist, as a member of the educational team, may be appropriate. The PT may use a variety of approaches to address motor problems including:

  • consultation with the classroom teacher regarding the child's disability, positioning, and/or equipment needs
  • activities to develop balance and coordination
  • training in mobility skills, including the use of walkers, wheelchairs, and crutches
  • exercises to improve strength and flexibility to enhance a student's participation in the school environment

Goal of Physical Therapy

The GOAL of Physical Therapy in the school setting is:

  • to identify children who have significant developmental delays and/or medical conditions which result in functional or motor limitations
  • to promote the optimal functioning and participation of the student in the educational environment

Role of Physical Therapy

The Role of Physical Therapy in the school setting is:

  • to provide screenings and evaluations of gross motor development, mobility, and activities of daily living,
  • to develop an individualized program to facilitate age or cognitive level appropriate motor skills that will enhance a student's participation in the school environment
  • to enable the student to negotiate the school environment in a safe, timely, and efficient manner as independently as possible
  • to enhance the student's ability to acquire and express information through appropriate positioning, seating, and use of adaptive equipment
  • to develop intervention strategies with parents, school personnel, and students to address motor problems that may interfere with the educational process
  • to recommend adaptations to the school environment to facilitate student access
  • to provide in-service training to parents, teachers, students, and other professionals regarding developmental and physical disabilities and their impact on education and the role of physical therapy in the school setting.


Therapists can apply years of training and experience and roomfuls of appropriate equipment to the care of your child, but you have one advantage that they do not: constant access. If you feel your child could use more help than he or she can get in the hours spent in a therapist's office or school, here are some sites that offer ways to help your child without leaving home -- from organized therapies to fun activities with therapeutic benefits to catalogs that offer helpful equipment.

Click here to find information regarding the health benefits of physical activity:

References for material on this website include:
Ellen McCrave, Physical Therapist, Boston Public Schools