In the educational setting, special education related services refer to speech therapy, occupational therapy (OT) and physical therapy (PT). Unlike medical speech, OT and PT services providers test students to determine if skill deficiencies are impacting their ability to access the academic curriculum and environment.
The role of the school-based speech-language pathologist (SLP) is to address the speech, language, and communication disorders that affect a student’s access to the curriculum. The SLP’s goal is to remediate, improve or ease student communication problems within the educational environment. To meet these goals, we use various approaches depending on the student’s disability, how it affects their communication, and depending on their individualized education plan (IEP) goals.
Children may experience one or more of the following disorders: speech sound disorders, difficulty pronouncing sounds; language disorders, difficulty understanding what they hear and expressing themselves with words; cognitive-communication disorders, difficulty with thinking skills including perception, memory, awareness, reasoning, judgment, intellect and imagination; stuttering disorders, interruption of the flow of speech that may include hesitations, repetitions, prolongations of sounds or words; and/or voice disorders that may include hoarseness, nasality, volume (too loud or soft).
Occupational therapy includes working to improve skills that impact functioning in everyday life. These can include physical, cognitive, psychosocial and sensory-perceptual skills. Occupational therapist can help with social skills, math, reading, behavior management, recess, taking part in sports, self-help, vocational and pre-vocational skills and performing daily living activities. They provide training to parents, teachers, staff and other caregivers.
Physical therapists assist special education students with the development and practice of motor and postural control, safety and mobility in the educational environment, sensory processing, or other underlying performance components that impact the student’s educational experience.
They support students in physical access to educational environment and activities, movement requirements for daily living and self-care, prevocational physical requirements, access to recreation activities and equipment, physical management components related to psycho-social development, functional communication, and transportation to and from school.
The Payson Unified School District uses, in varying capacities, the services of a physical therapist, two occupational therapists, one speech-language pathology assistant and four speech-language pathologists. In a time when many districts are struggling to fill these positions, we are fortunate to have a qualified staff to support our students, parents and teachers.