Description of the Services, Activities, and Interventions Within School-Based Physical Therapist Practices Across the United States

Lynn M. Jeffries, Sarah Westcott McCoy, Susan K. Effgen, Lisa A. Chiarello, Alejandro G. Villasante Tezanos

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Background Students with disabilities receive school-based physical therapy services under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act of 2004. Little research exists regarding therapy services in schools. Objective This study explored the school-based services that students received and the activities and interventions that physical therapists implemented, and determined if services differed based on the student's functional gross motor ability and age. Design This was a prospective observational cohort study using a practice-based evidence design. Methods Data were collected by 109 physical therapists for 296 students, aged 5 to 12 years, receiving school-based physical therapy. Physical therapists completed the School-Physical Therapy Interventions for Pediatrics data form for 20 weeks during 1 school year. This evaluation included the type of service delivery, the amount of time spent on each student (consultation/documentation), minutes spent in activities, the specific interventions implemented, and the student's level of participation. The Gross Motor Function Classification System (GMFCS) was used to describe the students' functional ability. Results Physical therapists provided an average of 26.7 min/wk (standard deviation [SD] = 15.1) of direct services and 13.1 min/wk (SD = 7.7) of services on behalf of the student. Primary activities were physical education/recreation (7.7 min/wk, SD = 8.2), mobility (6.7 min/wk, SD = 7.9), and sitting/standing/transitions (6.3 min/wk, SD = 8.1). Primary interventions were neuromuscular (32.5 counts per student, SD = 15.9), mobility (15.3 counts per student, SD = 14.65), and musculoskeletal (14.4 counts per student, SD = 10.3). Differences existed based on GMFCS but not student age. Limitations Physical therapists reported School-Physical Therapy Interventions for Pediatrics data weekly, not necessarily after each therapy session. The GMFCS was used as a proxy of students' functional gross motor ability. Conclusions Our description of services is provided to encourage physical therapists to reflect on the services they provide and to foster future examinations of service effectiveness.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)98-108
Number of pages11
JournalPhysical therapy
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2019
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Medicine


Dive into the research topics of 'Description of the Services, Activities, and Interventions Within School-Based Physical Therapist Practices Across the United States'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this