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School districts are required to provide a "free appropriate public education" to each qualified student with a disability, regardless of the nature or severity of the disability.

As such, children with disabilities who attend public schools may require special education and related services which include transportation services as well as occupational, physical and speech therapy. Student disabilities range from visual and hearing impairments to Down syndrome and cerebral palsy.

When a child with special needs goes to school, the therapists will determine whether he is able to ride the bus, write his name, see the blackboard and climb the stairs.

"The basis of physical therapy in this setting is to give children access to education," shared Julie Almeida, PT, president and chief executive of Bristol County Rehabilitation Services Inc. of Middletown, RI.

The Newport County Regional Special Education Program was formed to provide the full continuum of special education services for children identified with disabilities in the towns of Middletown, Portsmouth, Little Compton and Tiverton, RI. Under contract with the program, Bristol County Rehabilitation Services specializes in the delivery of physical and occupational therapy services in the public school setting.

"We incorporate our services into the educational setting as much as we can whether that is a movement group in the preschool class or supporting a student within a PE setting," explained Shanan Brissette, PT, DPT, Bristol County Rehabilitation Services.

Working with the speech language pathologists employed by Newport County Regional Special Education Program and various other team members, the PTs and OTs endeavor to keep children with physical and mental impairments in the public schools.

Please watch this video interview with Julie Almeida and Shanan Brissette that accompanies the cover feature in the Sept. 3 issue of ADVANCE for Physical Therapy and Rehab Medicine.


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