Related Services (April 2017)

By: Margie Carlman, Related Service Lead

Under the Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA) related service support, including speech & language, occupational therapy and physical therapy support is provided for school age children (3-21) whose disability impacts their ability to access the classroom. In Cambridge, therapists work in all of our schools.  They provide in-class and pull-out services as outlined in the IEP.  They work with children in varied groupings based on the student's needs. Therapists are also involved in screenings, and collaborate with classroom teachers to provide suggestions to support the respective areas of development.  

Children who have been identified as having a speech & language / communication delay, may present with challenges in a variety of areas -- speech sounds (articulation), language development (expressive & receptive - difficulty understanding what they hear, as well as expressing themselves with words), cognitive communication (perception, memory, reasoning, imagination), fluency (flow of speech), and functional communication / pragmatic / social language skills.  Speech & Language skills are critical to academic success and learning, as learning takes place through the process of communication.  Students with challenges in this area may have been late talkers, may have trouble with expressing ideas and communicating with adults and peers, may have trouble with literacy skills (reading, writing), test taking, and following directions.  (

Some ideas to support the development of communication skills….
  1. Conversations -- listen and talk with your child. Label objects in their environment to build vocabulary; play word and sound games with your child --name games, list words that rhyme ("ball," "tall") or start with the same sound ("mommy," "mix"); play board games; talk about what you see and what you do, and encourage your child to do the same; ask questions -- “Tell me about…” ; use music and poetry including nursery rhymes -- the rhythm and repetition help with language development.
  2. Share books with your child -- read every day -- even older children benefit from reading out loud; talk about the book -- have your child label objects, talk about the pictures, and answer questions / finish open ended sentences (“I wonder what is going to happen next…”; “Why do you think….”). Help your child to become aware of letter sounds (while pointing to a picture of a snake, ask “What sound (or letter) does snake start with?”  Choose books that your child likes or with topics they are interested in, so that they develop a love of books.  
  3. Provide opportunities to play with other children (on the playground, with playdates, etc.) -- this gives children the opportunity to use and practice language in a social way. Other children can be great models of language and social skills, providing opportunities to practice sharing, being flexible, compromising, taking turns, recognizing others’ opinions and feelings, and expressing their own thoughts and ideas. Model for your child when needed (ie: “Oh, it’s Billy’s turn right now, you are next..”)
There is often confusion between occupational therapists (OT) and physical therapists (PT). They work in the same space, frequently using same equipment.  There is overlap in what PT’s & OT’s work on and what they work on is often complementary, however there are differences.  

Physical Therapists help children to develop the strength, balance, coordination and motor planning skills needed to safely maneuver through the school environment and participate in school based movement activities – including recess, gym and classroom movement activities. The focus is on large motor / gross motor skills, and the foundations of strength, balance; coordination and motor planning needed to accomplish those skills. Exercise is important in the development of gross motor skills, and core strength is particularly important, as it helps us to sit up while doing work, and is needed for skilled use of our arms and legs for activities such as handwriting, kicking a ball, and running. Exercise is more than sit-ups and push-ups – it is ACTIVE PLAY and should be part of every child’s daily routine as it impacts physical, social, as well as cognitive development.

Some ideas to promote development of strength and gross motor skills that can be incorporated into a daily routine...
  1. Yoga – choose a few simple positions to build core strength and improve balance. Favorites include: “superkid” (on stomach lift arms legs, and head from the floor), “table” (face up, lift body from floor, with arms and legs acting as “legs to the table”), “boat” (sit on bottom and lift arms and legs), and “Down Dog” (start lying on stomach, move into a hands and feet position, with body in a “V” position). Hold these positions for a count of 10 and do 3-4 repetitions each. April 7 is “Kids Yoga Day” where children across the globe will participate in a simple 5 minute yoga routine.
  2. Walk to/ from school if you live close enough and if not, take a walk, bike ride or run before / after dinner.
  3. Stop at the playground before or after school. In the morning it is a good “wake up” activity in preparation for a day of learning. After school, it’s a great break / helps to energize the body and mind before tackling homework.
  4. Play movement games such as Twister, Hullabaloo, Wiggle & Giggle, I Can Do That, and if you enjoy video games, then Wii fit or Kinect
  5. Have a dance party, play catching/throwing games with a ball / beanbags, etc.
  6. Sports such as swimming, skating and martial arts are great for building core strength, balance and coordination.
It’s important to find things that your child enjoys, as they will be more likely to follow through. Put exercise / ACTIVE PLAY on the calendar every day and enjoy!!  
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