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Collaborating With Physical Therapists

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — A Saturday session at the Transporting Students with Disabilities Conference focused on physical therapy and transportation services, specifically how the two groups can better work together for students with special needs.

The presenters were Dianna Rose-Gates, lead physical therapist for Caddo Parish Schools in Louisiana, and Sara Scovitch, coordinator of school-based physical therapy services in Frederick, Maryland. They discussed the different ways that physical therapists can support transportation services, for example, helping train staff on things like proper lifting and injury prevention, and helping connect transporters with other services in special education.

“We have more direct contact with some of the service providers than you all do,” said Rose-Gates.

She also added that physical therapists can help ensure that IEPs correctly reflect special transportation needs as a “related service.”

“It really pays to help build that collaboration because those people are at the table when you can’t be there,” she said. 

The session also focused on examples of how to foster and grow a collaborative relationship. Scovitch noted that one of the most important things is direct communication. She likened indirect communication to the childhood game “telephone,” where by the end of the game, the message being shared was often much different from the original one. 

“If you can reach out to the PT directly, that supports your school, that’s always your best option. You’re going to get the best results and better responsiveness from our end,” she said, adding that if transporters are not aware of who the physical therapist is, they should be proactive in getting that information before they need it. 

Rose-Gates added that there’s also value in making time to visit the other side’s “turf” to get acquainted with each other and also to see first hand what the work is like. 

“I know everyone’s schedules are crazy but if you can, visit the other person’s turf. There’s a lot of respect that gets built into that,” she said. 

At the end of the session, the presenters also shared examples of complex case studies they each have encountered at their respective districts.

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