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Commentary on “Relationship of School-Based Physical Therapy Services to Student Goal Achievement”

Vialu, Carlo PT, MBA; Ray, Laurie MPT, PhD

Author Information
Pediatric Physical Therapy: January 2020 - Volume 32 - Issue 1 - p 34
doi: 10.1097/PEP.0000000000000675
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“How should I apply this information?”

As related service providers, school-based physical therapists (SBPTs) are charged by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) to prepare children with disabilities for the postschool outcomes of “further education, employment and independent living.”1 However, SBPTs in this study underemphasized their contributions to self-care (eg, toileting, dressing, and feeding) and academics, which are predictors of success in these postschool outcomes.2 One way SBPTs can increase their focus on both self-care and academics is by supporting the Physical Education and Health curriculum established in each state. As an added benefit, this study supported that working on self-care is associated with exceeding goal expectations for posture and mobility. This is likely due to the repeated opportunities to practice both posture and mobility when performing self-care, such as toileting, multiple times during the school day.

This study highlights the importance of services on behalf of the student (eg, consultation, collaboration, and documentation) when working toward posture and mobility goals. By consulting and collaborating with educators, SBPTs can influence class routines to increase the frequency of practice of desired skills (including self-care) during the school day. This increased frequency of practice can, in turn, promote motor learning.3

When working toward recreational and fitness goals, this study supports the SBPTs' use of functional strengthening and mobility interventions to improve playground access.

“What should I be mindful about when applying this information?”

As clearly stated by the researchers, this study does not establish causation, but associations between school-based physical therapy services and exceeding goal expectations. Therefore, as SBPTs modify the emphasis of their interventions based upon the conclusions of this study, they should closely monitor the response of each student to such interventions and adjust accordingly. For future studies, SBPTs would benefit from learning the associations between service location and goal achievement.

Carlo Vialu, PT, MBA

Apply EBP, LLC

New York

Laurie Ray, MPT, PhD

North Carolina Department of Public Instruction

Raleigh, North Carolina

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Chapel Hill, North Carolina

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.


1. US Copyright Office. Public Law 108-446, Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act of 2004, 118 STAT. 2647-2808.
2. Mazzotti VL, Rowe DA, Sinclair J, Poppen M, Woods WE, Shearer ML. Predictors of post-school success: a systematic review of NLTS2 secondary analyses. Career Dev Transit Except Individuals. 2016;39(4):196–215.
3. Kleim JA, Jones TA. Principles of experience-dependent neural plasticity: implications for rehabilitation after brain damage. J Speech Lang Hear Rese. 2008;51(1):S225–S239.
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