An Evaluation of Functional, School-Based Therapy Services for Children with Special Needs
Physical & Occupational Therapy In Pediatrics
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Millions of dollars are spent each year on school-based therapy services, yet little is known about whether these services improve the educationally relevant, functional outcomes of children with special needs. This program evaluation study used goal attainment scaling to examine whether 50 children with special needs (ranging in age from 5 to 12 years) attained their therapy goals in the real-world, functional areas of communication, school productivity, or mobility. Sixteen children received speech-language therapy for communication difficulties, 21 received occupational therapy for classroom productivity difficulties, and 13 received physical therapy services for mobility difficulties at school. The service delivery model incorporated direct therapy, monitoring, and collaborative consultation between therapists, teachers, and parents. In addition to goal attainment scaling, standardized measures of functional status were used to examine changes in the function of the children from pretest to posttest and at a five- to six-month follow-up. Measures of parent and teacher satisfaction with the services also were employed. The findings suggest that therapy services targeting communication, productivity, and mobility make a difference in how children with special needs function in the school setting. Children showed statistically and often clinically significant change in their outcomes over the intervention period, with these improved outcomes lasting at the five- to six-month follow-up.