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Occupational Therapists and Occupational Therapy Assistants are part of the education team within a school district.  Occupational Therapy is one of the related services under Part B of the Individual's with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), and is provided to support the student's Individualized Education Plan (IEP).  Occupational Therapy focuses on fine motor skills, visual spatial-motor skills, and sensory integration as applied to the school setting.  The profession of occupational therapy is concerned with a person’s ability to participate in desired daily life activities or “occupations.” In the schools, occupational therapy practitioners use their unique expertise to help children to prepare for and perform important learning and school-related activities and to fulfill their role as students. In this setting, occupational therapists (and occupational therapy assistants, under the supervision of the occupational therapist) support academic and non-academic outcomes, including social skills, math, reading and writing (i.e., literacy), behavior management, recess, participation in sports, self-help skills, prevocational/vocational participation, and more, for children and students with disabilities, 3 to 21 years of age. Practitioners are particularly skilled in facilitating student access to curricular and extracurricular activities through supports, designing and planning, and other methods. Additionally, they play a critical role in training parents, other staff members, and caregivers regarding educating students with diverse learning needs and assistance for students with activity of daily living needs.  Physical Therapy focuses on gross motor skills with some overlapping reflex and sensory integration skills as applied to the school setting. 

Physical therapy is another one of the related services under Part B of IDEA and is provided to support the student’s Individualized Education Program (IEP).  Physical Therapy focuses on gross motor skills and physical access of the educational environment.  Physical Therapists and Physical Therapy Assistants, under the supervision of the Physical Therapist, are members of a multidisciplinary school team that ensures a free and appropriate education for students with disabilities to prepare them for further education, employment, and independent living. Using their unique expertise in movement and function, particularly related to the neuromuscular and musculoskeletal systems, the school-based physical therapist promotes motor development and the student’s participation in everyday routines and activities that are part of the educational program.  This includes providing support for academic and non-academic outcomes in the areas of social skills, math, literacy, behavior management, recess, participation in sports, self-help skills, prevocational/vocational participation, and more.  These supports are provided for students with disabilities from 3 to 21 years of age.    Practitioners are particularly skilled in facilitating student access to curricular and extracurricular activities through supports, designing and planning, and other methods.   Additionally, they play a critical role in training parents, other staff members, and caregivers regarding education of students with diverse learning needs and assistance for students with gross motor activity of daily living needs.  

Adaptive Physical Education focuses on integration of the student into regular physical education and sports.  Adapted Physical Education is physical education which has been adapted or modified, so that it is as appropriate for the person with a disability as it is for a person without a disability.   Federal law mandates that physical education be provided to students with disabilities and defines Physical Education as the development of:
  • physical and motor skills
  • fundamental motor skills and patterns (throwing, catching, walking, running, etc)
  • skills in aquatics, dance, and individual and group games and sports (including intramural and lifetime sports

The Adaptive P.E. Teacher is a direct service provider, not a related service provider, because physical education for children with disabilities is a federally mandated component of special education services [U.S.C.A. 1402 (25)]. This means that physical education needs to be provided to the student with a disability as part of the  special education services that child and family receive. This is contrasted with physical therapy and occupational therapy, which are related services. These therapies are provided to the child with disabilities only if he/she needs them to benefit from instruction.

Please use this link to access Occupational and Physical Therapy:  Processes and Procedures for Best Practices in Arizona's Schools through the Exceptional Student Services Arizona Technical Assistance System (AZ-TAS).

Adaptive P.E. Standards and Information

Rev. March/2019