by Aimee Roberts, MSOT OTR/L
The purpose of this descriptive study was to examine the roles of occupational therapy and physical therapy in the educational setting and factors that influence role delineation in one western state. The data were analyzed using frequencies, percentages and Pearson Chi Square. A survey was completed by 186 therapists who are currently practicing in the school setting. Of the respondents, 138 were occupational therapists and 46 were physical therapists, a similar ratio to the actual number of practicing therapists. The findings indicate that both professions experience the same types of influences when defining their role. Responses of occupational therapists and physical therapists differed on some of the resources therapists used to guide their practice. Several differences in responses from each profession were noted regarding referral for services based on the student having difficulty with specific school activities. Occupational therapists indicated they were treating areas that are traditionally addressed by physical therapy. The majority of responses suggest that physical therapists are under-utilized in the school setting. In some cases, there were no distinction between physical therapy and occupational therapy. Implications on current practice and the need for further study are discussed.