BTS: District Physical Therapist
Physical therapy in the school setting is not about broken bones or pulled muscles. It’s about breaking down barriers for students that are caused by chronic conditions or developmental delays, according to physical therapist Dorothy Grover.
Grover has worked in the field of developmental disability services since 1990. Nearly two decades ago, she joined Queensbury Union Free School District as a school physical therapist. Today she provides education and support for teachers and families while supervising and collaborating with a physical therapist assistant in providing direct services to 40 students. Their focus is on the development of gross motor skills such as running, jumping, walking, getting in and out of a chair, getting up and down from the floor, and playing on the playground.
“We support students in terms of accessibility so that they can participate in the general or special education setting with maximum independence,” said Grover, who has seen how challenges with gross motor skills can become barriers to learning.
She explained that physical therapy is necessary “in order for some of these kids to be able to sit and attend with a learning-ready posture. Some of them, they can’t sit down, they can’t stay in their chair. Often it’s strength that keeps them from doing that or endurance.”
Grover helps identify appropriate goals for overcoming those challenges through student evaluations, classrooms observations and working closely with teachers, parents and doctors. A student’s physical therapy goals might be outlined in a personal improvement plan, or if set in relation to a disability, in a 504 plan and/or individualized educational plan.
Each student’s goals are unique, but the skills he or she sets out to achieve are universal to all students.
“It’s about getting around the classroom. Being able to get up and down from their desk, get their belongings out of their desk, and manage their own belongings in their cubby. It’s walking to their specials, participating in their specials and being able to sit and attend in a large group on the floor. That’s hard for the younger kids especially. It’s being able to go outside with their classroom and play on the swingset with their friends versus sitting off to the side watching their friends play.”
During a physical therapy session at school, students participate in activities and exercises designed to strengthen their gross motor skills and help them meet their goals. Most regular sessions at the elementary level are handled by the physical therapist assistant, under Grover’s supervision. Then as students progress through Queensbury schools, Grover continues to work with them from building to building.
She also serves as chair of the Committee on Preschool Special Education, allowing her to follow students’ progress from preschool to high school graduation.
“I love that I get to see the growth from when they were little all the way up through graduation,” said Grover. “We get to work with people for a really long time, which is awesome. Challenging sometimes, but in the end, awesome.”