Occupational and Physical Therapy

Philosophy of Service
The Orange County Department of Education provides occupational and physical therapy as a related service to students. The objective of occupational and physical therapy is to facilitate the student’s independent function and to decrease the effect of the child’s disability on his/her ability to benefit from the special education process. This is accomplished through the use of purposeful goal directed activities and environmental modifications.
School-based occupational and physical therapy seeks to:
•    Recommend and provide environmental adaptations necessary to increase the students ability to function efficiently within
     the classroom;
•    Improve motor skills, from mobility to manipulation of objects, necessary for the student to interact with the school
     environment;
•    Promote the development of motor skills, reduce the effects of motor dysfunction, and prevent deformity which limits the
      student’s ability to function;
•    Increase movement of joints to allow for better positioning during activities and improve functional movements to encourage
     independence at school;
•    Increase independence in self-care needs at school (feeding, dressing, grooming and toileting) through the use of adapted
     equipment and strategies, which compensate for the student’s disability;
•    Support classroom staff in meeting the child’s IEP goals within the context of their day.

Occupational and Physical therapy services can be delivered as consultation to the parent/classroom staff, in collaboration with other members of the classroom team, or as a direct service. The services should be provided in the educational environment where the student is experiencing difficulty. Integration of services in the classroom enriches the classroom environment and provides for programming on a more consistent basis. This enables learned skills to be generalized at a more rapid rate. Research has shown that interventions “embedded” in class routines using functional life skills increase the efficiency of intervention, achievement of IEP goals, and the motivation to participate.
These services may be rendered by a registered and licensed occupational therapist (OTR/L), a licensed certified occupational therapy assistant (COTA/L) or a registered physical therapist (RPT) in compliance with national and state guidelines for supervision.


Occupational Therapists provide collaborative consultation and support to staff and/or specialized direct instruction to improve a student’s educational performance related to fine motor, gross motor and sensory integration development. They use goal-directed activities to improve the student’s educational performance in postural stability, self-help abilities, sensory processing and organization, environmental adaptation and use of assistive devices, motor planning and coordination, visual perception and integration, and fine motor abilities.

Occupational Therapy is defined as:  Improving, developing, or restoring functions impaired or lost through illness, injury or deprivation.  Improving ability to perform tasks for independent functioning when functions are impaired or lost; and
Preventing, through early intervention, initial or further impairment or loss of function (34 C.F.R. 300.16[b][5]).

Occupational therapy assistant means an individual who is certified pursuant to the provisions of Section 2570.2(h) of the Business and Professions Code, who is in good standing as determined by the board, and based thereon, who is qualified to assist in the practice of occupational therapy under this chapter, and who works under the appropriate supervision of a licensed occupational therapist.

Physical Therapists provide collaborative consultation and support to staff and/or specialized direct instruction to improve a students’ educational performance related to functional gross motor development. They use goal-directed activities to improve the student’s motor control and coordination, posture and balance, self-help capabilities, functional mobility, accessibility, and the use of assistive devices.

Physical Therapy is defined as:
Services provided by “A qualified physical therapist addresses the promotion of sensorimotor function through enhancement of musculoskeletal status, neurobehavioral organization, perceptual and motor development, cardiopulmonary status and effective environmental adaptation. These services include providing individual and group services or treatments to prevent, alleviate or compensate for movement dysfunctions and related problems, (34 C.F.R. 303.12[9]).


Service Level Defined
Treatment frequency and duration is based on each student’s individual needs and the level of service required to implement the student’s goals and objectives; however, the following suggested standard service levels could be considered by the IEP team:
  • Direct treatment, individual and/or group, should include emphasis on teaching and advising in the classroom, academic  setting or therapy room.
  • Consultation, on a limited basis (i.e., for six sessions, for three months) should be exclusive to training and advising other academic related personnel, including: teachers, aides, adapted physical education staff, speech pathologists, resource specialists, home instructor, etc.).
  • Group Treatments are utilized to work on generalization of skills that are worked on individually in the classroom  
    environment. All groups are sensorimotor based and include proprioceptive (deep pressure/vibration), vestibular
    (movement), tactile (touch), eye-hand coordination, balance and fine motor activities as well as warm up and cool down
    activities. All groups are designed to incorporate each student’s IEP goals and the prerequisite skills needed to meet those goals.