Determining Need for School-Based Physical Therapy Under IDEA: Commonalities Across Practice Guidelines

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Background and Purpose:The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) includes physical therapy (PT) as a related service that may be provided to help students with disabilities benefit from their education. However, the IDEA does not provide specific guidance for the provision of school-based PT, resulting in variations in practice across the United States. The authors examined 22 state and local education agency guidelines available online to find commonalities related to the determination of a student's need for PT.Results and Conclusions:Seven commonalities found: educational benefit, team decision, need for PT expertise, establishment of Individualized Education Program (IEP) goal before determining need for PT, distinction between medical and educational PT, the student's disability adversely affects education, and the student's potential for improvement. These commonalities are discussed in relation to current PT and special education literature. This article suggests applying these commonalities as procedural requirements and questions for discussion during an IEP team meeting.

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