The scopes of practice of speech-language pathologists, occupational therapists, and physical therapists are quite diverse, and each therapy varies by the setting in which it is taking place. While they play important roles in every setting, therapists view evaluations and treatment of their patients with a different outlook dependent on the population and setting in which they work.
School-based therapists focus on improving students’ overall educational performance and success.
When determining eligibility, the degree of deficit must fall below a certain range for a child to qualify for school therapy services. For example, children with mild articulation impairments might not qualify for services in the educational setting unless data can prove the deficit would negatively impact the child’s performance in the educational setting.
Additionally, therapists are bound by federal, state and local curriculum guidelines and must make sure they align treatment with grade-level curriculum when determining treatment eligibility and writing individualized education plan (IEP) goals. While they do their best to meet students at their current level of functioning, these requirements in the educational setting may limit therapists’ ability to work towards mastery of skills in settings outside of school. Additionally, even in the most well-funded, sufficiently employed schools, therapist caseloads are often large, which may result in less individualized therapy time with students and increased treatment time in the group setting. Group therapy can be fantastic for certain goals and students but less beneficial for others who would benefit from one-on-one attention.
Clinical and Medical Setting Therapists
On the contrary, therapists in the clinical and medical settings most often provide treatment one-on-one.
Like school-based therapists, they also determine eligibility for services using standardized assessments and referencing evidence-based norms. However, clinical therapists are able to provide services for children with deficits ranging from mild to profound severity, meaning they qualify in a clinic but not at school. Therapists are typically more easily available to communicate directly with parents and provide in-person parent training and education.
Parents are often even able (and encouraged) to observe evaluations and treatment sessions! Therapists also focus on providing education to families how new skills can be practiced and mastered in a variety of settings (i.e., home, community events, shopping, restaurants).
It is also important to keep in mind if a child benefits from multiple therapies, communication among all school and clinical therapists is allowed and encouraged! This can help service providers better know the child as a whole and work towards common goals together. As the new school year approaches, it is important to remember that maximizing therapy frequency now may result in a burst in new skills or even graduation from services!
If you believe your child would benefit from any speech, occupational, or physical therapy services please contact one of our clinics, a wise person once said regarding therapy, “More never hurt anyone!”