There is no doubt that learning disabilities and differences impact a child’s education, as well as how they approach learning. However, physical disabilities can affect a child’s educational journey as well.
No matter the disability, students deserve equal access to education and the natural school environment. Physical therapy is often a critical service to do just that. But can students receive physical therapy under an independent education plan (IEP)?
The short answer? Yes.
Children can receive physical therapy sessions to support their IEP if they qualify for it. The IEP might include specific motor goals, such as not walking on tiptoes or improving handwriting skills. Physical therapy can help with these goals, and it is one of the related services outlined in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).
Pediatric physical therapy is often helpful for conditions that impact a child’s motor skills or mobility. These conditions might include:
- Down syndrome
- Muscular dystrophy
- Cerebral palsy
If students qualify for physical therapy, the physical therapist will become a part of the IEP team. They will work and collaborate with other team members – including parents – to provide therapeutic interventions that help students achieve their motor IEP goals.
There are specific steps that California families must take to ensure their child receives physical therapy services under their IEP. Therefore, it is critical for parents to understand the details of what is required and offered under California law.
What if students do not qualify for an IEP?
There are some cases where students might require physical therapy, but not qualify for an IEP. What should parents do then?
Thankfully, IDEA is not the only law that covers in-school physical therapy. Students who qualify for 504 plans can also receive physical therapy as a part of their school day.
School-based physical therapy – as well as all the related services available – could make a significant difference in students’ education. That is why parents must understand their rights regarding their child’s special education needs and opportunities.