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Difference Between Physical Therapy And Occupational Therapy As Related Services In Education

By Christine Dugan

One common question asked by parents is what is the difference between physical therapy and occupational therapy services provided through schools as a related special education service? Both therapies are related services to special education and are provided only if the child needs therapy to function in the educational setting. The role of physical therapist and an occupational therapist is to facilitate a student's independent functioning and decrease the effects of a disability on his/her ability to participate in the educational setting and 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 and 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 and exiting the school bus

- Postural control and alignment needed to perform school activities and 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 and interpret what is seen

- Visual motor skills: the ability to coordinate visual skills and motor skills

- Self care skills: feeding, dressing, hygiene, and toileting skills for increasing independence in necessary life skills

Both physical and occupational therapists may address the following areas:

- Strength and endurance

- Body awareness

- Classroom positioning and adaptations

- Sensory motor skills necessary for participation in an educational program

Physical therapists and occupational therapists have similar training. Occupational therapists receive more training in oral and hand skill interventions and physical therapists receive more training gross motor and postural development.

About The Author

Christine Dugan works in the special education field and is a contributing author to the health information site http://health.divinfo.com as well as the article submission site http://www.articlemotron.com.


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