The Evaluation of Functional, School-Based Therapy Services for Children with Special Needs
Physical & Occupational Therapy In Pediatrics
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In this article we report the results of a feasibility study examining the effects of speech-language, occupational, and physical therapy services provided to children with physical or communication needs in the regular school setting. This feasibility study was conducted in preparation for a full program evaluation study. We examined: (a) the utility of goal attainment scaling for evaluating therapy services in the school setting, (b) the utility of several standardized measures in capturing change (the Arizona Articulation Proficiency Scale, the Vineland Adaptive Behavior Scales-Classroom Edition, and the School Function Assessment), (c) the utility of two satisfaction questionnaires in assessing parent and teacher satisfaction with the services, and (d) issues related to teachers', parents', and therapists' participation. The study involved collaborative goal setting between therapists, parents, and teachers of 16 children with three types of special needs: articulation difficulties, developmental coordination disorder, or cerebral palsy. The children received an average of 13 therapy sessions over a four- to five-month period during the school year. The study provides useful information about the nature of important outcomes for school-based therapy services (i.e., functional outcomes in the areas of articulation, productivity, and mobility in the school environment) and methods by which to measure these outcomes. It also provides preliminary evidence of the utility of school-based, functional therapy services for children with special needs and indicates that focusing on functional goals is a worthwhile approach that leads to improvements in children's functioning in the school setting.