Occupational Therapy, Physical Therapy, Adaptive PE, & Assistive Technology

Hanover County Public Schools provides occupational and physical therapy as a related service to special education when a student requires the service in order to benefit from his or her educational program. Therapists work closely with teachers and other members of the school team to identify and establish solutions and/or adaptations that will help students to participate as fully as possible in their school settings. As team members, therapists share information and integrate their specialized knowledge in child development and motor learning and task performance to provide a unique perspective within the educational environment. A service may be indicated when a student eligible for special education is unable to make progress without that unique perspective. Therapy is best delivered using an integrated team process. The appropriateness and extent of therapy provided by a school division is related to the educational needs rather than the medical needs of a student with a disability.

Adaptive Physical Education

Hanover County Public Schools provides physical education to all students. Adapted Physical Education (APE) is physical education that 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. Physical education is the development of: a) physical and motor skills; b) fundamental motor skills and patterns (throwing, catching, walking, running, etc.); and c) skills in individual and group games and sports. 

APE is a direct service, which means that physical education needs to be provided to the student with a disability as part of the special education services the student receives. 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.

Physical education services can take many forms depending on the needs of the student. Many students with disabilities are able to participate in the general physical education program. Some can participate with accommodations; some may require adapted instructional methods or equipment and may require consultation with an APE teacher. Some students may require a collaborative effort between the PE teacher and the APE teacher in order to remain in the least restricted environment. A few students may require specially designed programming outside of the regular physical education classroom.

Hanover County Public Schools employs nationally certified adapted physical education teachers with highly specialized training in the assessment and evaluation of motor competence, physical fitness, play, leisure, recreation, and sports skills relevant to students with disabilities.

Occupational Therapy (OT) Evaluation

If it is suspected that a student found eligible for special education might require OT as a related service, we will conduct an evaluation.

In school-based therapy, the occupational therapy evaluation assesses the student’s ability to participate in functional, educationally relevant activities. The assessment may include evaluation of sensory processing, motor, perceptual, and/or adaptive skills to determine the impact on classroom performance and educational progress. An assessment may include observation, interview, and/or testing and occurs in the natural setting in order to best determine if accommodations, adaptations, or services are required in order for a student to benefit from their educational program.

Physical Therapy (PT) Evaluation

If it is suspected that a student found eligible for special education may require PT as a related service, we will conduct an evaluation.

In school-based therapy, the Physical Therapy Evaluation assesses the student's ability to participate in functional, educationally relevant activities required during the school day.  A functional skill mobility assessment based on observation and interview is usually used to evaluate the student's skills and ability to access their educational program(s). We will also assess the school environment in order to determine if the student needs accommodations in order to be as successful as the student’s present ability level allows.

School-based therapy interventions are best provided as a part of the student’s daily routine and may include adapting student activities, developing increased practice opportunities, providing positioning advice, monitoring equipment or therapeutic programs, and team problem solving.  The least restricted environment is a critical consideration, and we may deliver services directly or by consultation/collaboration, materials modification, and/or through staff/team training and should be delivered in the least restrictive way. A student’s need for services will vary over time. Services and accommodations are reflected in the educational plan and should always be based on immediate educational needs.

Hanover County OTs and PTs (and APE teachers) additionally sometimes participate in trainings at a more universal level that may improve occupational performance for all students through division and/or school professional development (e.g. lifting and back safety, backpack safety awareness, RTI strategies, handwriting tips and tools, etc.). 

Hanover County Public Schools employs highly qualified occupational and physical therapists that value and regularly participate in continuing education. Our therapists hold numerous specialized certifications, and many serve as clinical faculty for the schools of occupational therapy and physical therapy at Virginia Commonwealth University. We deeply value evidenced based practice and seek to stay abreast of current research and therapy practices.

Assistive Technology

Hanover County Public Schools strives to follow best practices in the area of assistive technology (AT) evaluation, consideration, and services. Assistive technology (AT) can be any device or service that allows a student with a disability greater independence and self-reliance, participation in the general education curriculum, more opportunity to progress toward his/her educational goals, and opportunities for inclusion with his/her same age peers. AT has the potential to improve the overall quality of life for an individual with a disability. Assistive technology devices range from low-tech tools such as pencil grippers and reading guides to high-tech items like computers and communication devices with dynamic displays.

Assistive Technology can ensure that students with disabilities receive a free and appropriate public education (FAPE) by providing access to the educational setting and curriculum and by facilitating IEP goal progress. HCPS strongly values participation in regular training activities for key resource people and educational staff in order so that we may continue to provide the most appropriate AT for our students with disabilities. An extensive AT lending library is available to teachers for use with their students. Following best practice, the IEP team is responsible for AT decision making; resources are available to them to support this process.

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