School Therapy and Physio

Occupational therapists, physiotherapists and rehab assistants are health care professionals. Those working in the school therapy service help students achieve success in school by ensuring that they have the functional skills necessary to participate in school activities.


What is school therapy?

School therapy is a service offered by the IWK Health Centre to students attending schools within the region. The aim of School Therapy is to work with students, families and school staff to improve the student’s functional abilities at school. Goals developed are related to the student’s educational and functional needs at school.


What are educational and functioning needs at school?

They generally fall within the following categories:

  • Classroom productivity
  • Mobility
  • Participation in school activities.


What is occupational Therapy?

  • Classroom positioning (e.g. at desk, circle time)
  • Handling classroom materials (e.g. crayons, pencils, scissors)
  • Functional written communication (e.g. printing, cursive writing, keyboarding)
  • School tasks and routines (e.g. organizing materials, opening the lock on a locker)
  • Self-help skills (e.g. dressing, eating, toileting)
  • Life skills (E.g. meal preparation, laundry, handling money)


What do rehab assistants do?

  • Carryout and progress goals identified by therapists
  • Resource support and development (e.g. visual schedules and handouts)
  • Adapt and modify equipment
  • Support school therapy service suggestions


How Physio assists in school therapy?

  • Functional physical needs
  • School participation (e.g. endurance, strength, balance)
  • Safety when accessing school environment (e.g. stairs, playground, transfers)
  • Adaptive equipment (e.g. positioning equipment, orthotics, walking aids)
  • Maximizing independence for students with limited mobility (e.g. identification of alternate ways to accomplish tasks)
  • Integration into physical education and other school based physical activities.


Referral Process:

Schools, in conjunction with parents/guardians, with a concern about a student’s functional abilities at school may make a referral to the School Therapy Service.


How do I make a referral?

  • The principal at the student’s school should be contacted about the concern. He/she will discuss it with the Program Planning Team at the school. This team is responsible for completing and forwarding the School Therapy Service Student Profile (available through HSRB Document Depot or from the School Therapy Service). The referral requires the signature of the parent and principal. Please be sure that all areas of the referral are complete, including all demographic, information along with specific goals.


What happens once the referral is received?

Based on the information provided on the Student Profile, the student will be placed on the appropriate therapist’s caseload. The family will be contacted to discuss particular concerns that may have related to their child’s functioning at school. Students whose needs would be better met by another team will have their referral forwarded to that team.


Discharge Process:

When a student has successfully achieved goals, which were developed in conjunction with the School Therapy Service, and are at low risk of ongoing difficulties, he/she may be discharged from the Service. Students must be referred again each school year if functional goals are identified.

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The Canadian Physiotherapy Association (CPA) represents physiotherapists, physiotherapist assistants and physiotherapist students across Canada. CPA members are rehabilitation professionals dedicated to the health, mobility and fitness of Canadians.

Physiotherapists are primary health care professionals who combine their in-depth knowledge of the body and how it works with specialized hands-on clinical skills to assess, diagnose and treat symptoms of illness, injury or disability.

More than 20,000 registered physiotherapists work in Canada, in private clinics, general and rehabilitation hospitals, community health centres, residential care and assisted-living facilities, home visit agencies, workplaces, and schools.

The CPA presents its educational references as a public service and for informational purposes only. The content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. The opinions expressed do not necessarily represent the opinions of the CPA membership.