Sensorimotor/OT & PT
Elementary Special Education Director
Secondary Special Education Director
PT Program Specialist
OT Program Specialist
Occupational and Physical Therapies in Cherry Creek Schools
An interdisciplinary team of professionals that includes physical therapists, occupational therapists, and physical/occupational therapy assistants is available to support Cherry Creek students with special needs. All therapists and assistants are fully credentialed in their fields, in accordance with the guidelines of the American Occupational Therapy Association and the American Physical Therapy Association. Therapists are licensed through the Colorado Department of Education. They provide screening, assessment, consultation, and direct services to students in every school throughout the district.
Therapies in the School Setting
Since 1975 federal legislation has identified occupational therapy and physical therapy as services available to support the education of children with disabilities. The nature of services provided to students is determined on an individual basis and by a team of professionals that includes parents, classroom teachers, and special education team members. Assessment services are provided to infants and toddlers up to age three. For children age 3-5 both evaluation and intervention services are provided for children whose motor skill development is significantly delayed. Information about services for children from birth to age 5 is available through Cherry Creek's Child Find office. For students ages 5 to 21, OT and PT services can be accessed through the special education department in each school.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is Occupational Therapy?
Occupational Therapy is typically categorized as an allied health profession, though since 1975 increasing numbers of OTs work in public school settings as a related service under the IDEA. "Occupation" refers not just to employment or vocation for adults, but to all of the purposeful activities that children and adults choose to do or need to do to participate in life's responsibilities and activities. For a child, that may include activities of daily living like getting dressed, playing games, eating, and helping with chores, caring for a pet, developing hobbies, doing homework, or learning to drive.
Because these activities involve physical coordination and particularly using hands and tools, occupational therapists have developed a particular expertise in understanding and helping children with development of motor coordination.
Occupational therapy is the profession most directly responsible for addressing problems with fine motor skills, eye-hand coordination difficulties, and challenges with independence in daily routines and self-help skills. In the elementary school setting OTs are often asked to evaluate and support students with handwriting difficulties.
Much of human physical activity depends on accurate sensory information and perception of one's immediate surroundings and one's own body position and movement, so when a child is having difficulty with motor skills, an OT will often want to look at sensory processing.
Some of the aspects of sensory processing that occupational therapists are concerned about are body awareness, visual perception and awareness of and response to touch and motion, and these aspects of a child's experience are also addressed in an OT evaluation.
What is Physical Therapy?
Physical Therapists are medically trained professionals who specialize in muscle, bone, and neurological functions and disabilities. In the school setting PTs are available as a related service under the IDEA to plan and administer motor programs and to restore or improve gross motor function and mobility. Services are provided to students who are impacted by congenital, developmental or acquired disabilities and need such related services as determined by the IEP team. Federal law defines the role of school physical therapy as being able to assist students with disabilities improve their functional independence as it relates to school activities.
What is the Difference between Physical Therapy and Occupational Therapy?
Occupational and physical therapists share a fair amount of overlap in their training and in the services they are qualified to provide to children with motor challenges. In Cherry Creek Schools, OTs and PTs work together closely as members of the same department - the Sensorimotor Team. When asked to see a child who is demonstrating possible difficulties with movement activities, the OT will first assess the student and will request the services of a physical therapist if appropriate. Close collaboration is a strong value of both groups of therapists, and decisions are made on a student - by - student basis. In general, if a student has an identified orthopedic impairment or physical disability impacting posture, walking, or strength, the physical therapist would be included in the child's assessment team.
What About Private Therapy?
Just as some families choose to have private academic tutoring support for their child, some families choose to receive private OT and/or PT services. Occasionally a physician will prescribe physical or occupational therapy services for a child that are medically necessary but are not relevant to school functioning and not presenting an obstacle to educational performance. School therapists are always available to collaborate with private therapists for the benefit of any student. Written permission is required for school therapists to communicate by phone or in writing with private therapists. Some therapists employed by CCSD also conduct private practices, but they do not ever personally provide private services to a child who attends one of the schools in which they serve as an employee. Families are always welcome to include anyone they wish in an IEP meeting, including private therapists. The district has specific policies and procedures for private therapists who may wish to provide services during the school day or collaborate with school personnel on the delivery of physical therapy services.
How can I contact a therapist?
If you have concerns about a child under 5 years of age, you may contact Child Find at 720-554-4000. For school aged students, therapists can be reached through each building's special education department.