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Thread: Standard for getting/keeping PT services

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jan 2008

    Default Standard for getting/keeping PT services


    My dd is entering kindergarten in California. She has been receiving services through our school district since the age of 3. One of those services is PT, once a week for 30 minutes at the district's therapy gym. It is clear to me they want to cease PT, likely at the triannual IEP which will happen in November. (one PT for the entire medium to large suburban district).

    The PT keeps making statements to me like "all we have to get her to is safely navigating the school environment." Sometimes I ask about how dd is progressing on a particular age appropriate skill and she will remark that the particular skill is "developmental" not academic or relate to safely navigating the school environment. She has also made a similar remark in a full assessment I requested prior to our Kinder Transition IEP in May. Although my dd's "gross motor skills are at the 3 -3.5 year old level" dd "presents as safe, functional, and independent in her overall gross motor abilities."

    Temporarily ignoring how a kid with a 2 year delay in gross motor is ready to stop PT, my gut is the standard is off. I am thinking it should be more along the lines of she can fully access/participate in the cirriculum and school activities. I can't find any regulation or case that speaks to this in the context of PT. If the district is wrong, I would like to come back with "no, the standard is XYZ.". Even better if I can cite a reg or give them a copy . I also know this same line is giving to several other parents (safely navigates campus) and I get the feeling if the district says it often enough with conviction, parents will back off thinking the school district is right.

    Thanks for your time.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    May 2012

    Default Standard for Getting and Keeping PT Services

    Hi, DLP.

    You bring up two important things in your question.

    First, you are wise to begin planning ahead for your daughter’s triannual IEP meeting next November. You have several months to work out your tactics and strategies before that meeting happens.

    I wish more parents would plan ahead as you are doing now.

    Second, my clients around the country are telling me that their school districts are beginning to manufacture excuses to cut or reduce related services. The driving force for those excuses is usually that the district’s budget cannot afford to provide the services.

    This isn’t anything new. As long as I have been an advocate (which is close to 20 years) school districts have used the same old worn-out excuse: “We don’t have the resourses,” or “We have limited resources.”

    It comes in different forms.

    • The parents want a Cadillac, they aren’t satisfied with the Chevrolet the school is offering.

    • Your child made so much progress this year that the (name the service) isn’t appropriate any longer.

    The list is limited only by the cliches school district special education administrators have picked up in their training conferences.

    In your situation, the school said, “all we have to get her to is safely navigating the school environment."

    Don’t you just love it when the school says a mouthful without saying anything at all?

    What does “safely navigate mean,” and what, exactly, is the “school environment?”

    There are three elements to the school’s statements.

    1. The school declares the limits of its responsibility to provide FAPE because “all we have to do is get her to safely navigating the school environment.”

    2. Ask yourself this question: What is a skill that is "developmental" that does not relate to academics or to safely navigating the school environment?

    Challenge the school to tell you exactly what skills (developmental or otherwise) aren’t related to anything that your daughter is involved in while at school.

    3. The school says your daughters gross motor skills are at the 3 -3.5 year old level and presents as safe, functional, and independent in her overall gross motor abilities.

    Presents as? What kind of educational language is that?

    I’ll tell you. It isn’t.

    Presents, as used in that statement comes from a medical model, which schools love to mimic.

    Ask the school to cut the hooey and describe your daughter’s strengths and weaknesses in plain language and in measurable terms.

    What is important is that you recognize that if your daughter needs those services to have reasonable access to and benefit from the school district’s programs and services, the school has to provide it. Those programs and services include the general education curriculum. If your daughter needs related services to have access to and benefit from the school’s programs and services, then the IEP team must find a way to provide the services your daughter needs.

    Look at it this way: If your daughter needs physical therapy services to help her participate in classroom work such as writing, sitting, standing, etc., then withholding those services will have a negative (adverse) effect on her academic achievement and progress.

    It is also important for you to know that if the school district thinks it should cut the services, it must do two things:

    1. Conduct an evaluation to decide whether your daughter continues to need the services for FAPE, and,

    2. Give you a Prior Written Notice (PWN) that fully explains how and why the decision to cut the service was made.

    34 CFR 300.503 requires prior written notice to be given to the parents of a child with a disability a reasonable time before the public agency proposes (or refuses) to initiate or change the identification, evaluation, or educational placement of the child, or the provision of FAPE to the child. You can read this requirement by going to

    And the last point in your questions to me is about finding a regulation or case that speaks directly to the context of physical therapy (PT).

    Let me give you a huge tip: It is better have a half-pound of good facts than 100 pounds of case decisions. Why? Because any case decision that speaks to physical therapy (or any other similar related service) analyzes the controling law (statute of regulation) by applying the facts of the particular case to the controlling law.

    I think the regulation you are looking for is in the definitions section at 34 CFR 300.34(b)

    Related services.
    (a) General.

    Related services means transportation and such developmental, corrective, and other supportive services as are required to assist a child with a disability to benefit from special education, and includes speech-language pathology and audiology services, interpreting services, psychological services, physical and occupational therapy, recreation, including therapeutic recreation, early identification and assessment of disabilities in children, counseling services, including rehabilitation counseling, orientation and mobility services, and medical services for diagnostic or evaluation purposes. Related services also include school health services and school nurse services, social work services in schools, and parent counseling and training. [Emphasis added]

    You can find that regulation at

    I didn’t read anything in that definition that says anything at all about being able to navigate safely at school, did you? I also did not see anything in that definition that sounds anything like developmental skills, did you?

    The definitions might be the most important part of the regulations. Most of us overlook them as we dig through case law and other regulation parts looking for the secret mojo to put the school district straight.

    So taking that definition, and the little formula about case decisions, we can ask this question: Do your facts prove that your daughter requires PT as a related service to benefit from her special education?

    That is exactly the question a court or hearing officer might ask if you were to ask for a due process hearing on this issue.

    The takeaway point: Any statement without evidence is merely an opinion.

    So ask your school for proof for its statement about your the rule it made up about "developmental challenges. proof) that “developmental” challenges . What is the evidence?

    Ask your school this question – How do my daughter’s present levels of functional performance in gross motor skills prove that withdrawing physical therapy services is safe for my daughter, that she will maintain her present levels of function, and that she is currently independent in her overall gross motor abilities?

    I think you will find that the school has given you some powerful evidence of its cluelessness.

    Another suggestion: Write the top school district special education administrator a short letter that asks that question. By letter, I do not mean an email message. I mean a letter written on a piece of paper, put into an envelope, and mailed to the school’s mailing address.

    If you visulize yourself as your daughter's parent and her advocate you will take on a whole new perspective about how you work with with the school. You are just as smart as anyone in the IEP meeting and don't you ever let the school folks imply otherwise.

    Final tip:

    Evidence is a better friend than power.
    (I stole that phrase fair and square but where I stole it has long escaped my memory)

    I hope your questions have all been covered here. If not, let me know and I’ll take another go at it.

    brice palmer
    Benson, Vermont

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jan 2006

    Default Consider also Adapted PE

    Hi DLP,
    You could also look into adapted physical education for your daughter. Once she is in kindergarten, PE is part of the regular state curriculum, even if your CA school doesn't schedule it very often. Adapted PE is thus not a related service to access the academic curriculum, but a subject by itself. You could request in writing an evaluation of your daughters abilities in this area. An Adapted Physical Education Specialist will do tests such as the Test of Gross Motor Development and the Hughes Basic Motor Assessment. These will give a numerical level for your daughter and the average for her age with plus/minus one standard deviation. Then you can see how many standard deviations she is below age level and if it is more than about two to three SDs, the school district must provide adapted PE with a specialist each week to work on improving the skills that are lagging. This will be very much like physical therapy, but on the school site. The specialist teachers travel from school to school and bring any equipment they need with them. Adapted PE was marvelous for my son when he had it.
    Best wishes,

    The CA standards for PE are described here. This shows what the state thinks your daughter ought to be able to know and do by the end of kindergarten, and which adapted PE would work towards if regular education in these subjects with her class of students will not enable her to reach these levels.
    Last edited by Ann; 06-24-2012 at 09:45 PM. Reason: Added a link to the state PE standards

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