All the kids and teachers rejoice, the parents may be a bit more hesitant. Today we reach out to Concierge Orthopedic’s resident school physical therapy expert, Dr. Allee Tatum. Being the super mom she is, she works full-time as a PT for a school district outside of Oklahoma City, part-time for Concierge Orthopedics, and over-time as a mom to one year old Molly Kate.
I’ve been a PT for almost 15 years and I can’t say I know for certain what being a PT in the schools includes. So let’s find out!
Kelli: Allee, what does a typical day as a PT in the schools look like for you?
Allee: Our district has a building where we office. I start there and hop around up to three schools every day.
I work with some kids in their classrooms. I get some in the floor to work on skills. I do a lot of teacher education on positioning, adaptive feeding, and equipment use. I train staff on using gait trainers and standers. I encourage teachers and staff to get the kids out of their wheelchairs often.
For other students, in general education I often go to recess or PE with them. I modify activities, make adaptations or accommodations. We play on the playground equipment and play with their peers.
Treatment is very different for high schoolers. You can find us working on wheelchair skills around campus.
We talk about self advocacy to get ready for college or the work place, elevator use, and high level wheelchair skills.
We have less paperwork than traditional outpatient clinics. I write goals and record our activities. I see some kids once a week for 30 minutes and others every other week. The intensity and frequency varies on the child.
Kelli: Why did you choose to work in the education system as a PT?
Allee: I started out in adult neuro and loved it but I didn't love all the red-tape and restrictions placed on us by administration. I loved switching to schools and seeing patients with neurological involvement in their environment and utilizing play-based therapy. My patients are with peers and teachers. It's truly a team effort. I work closely with assistive technology professionals (ATP) to order better wheelchairs and improve function. I love the work-life balance school PT allows.
Kelli: What is your favorite part of working for schools?
Allee: I love all the kids! They are each so unique. No student or diagnosis is the same. Even students with the same diagnosis are different from one another.
Kelli: What do kids receiving PT during the school year do for care during the summer?
Allee: Some families will try to get outpatient services over the summer. I write home exercise programs (HEPs) for several students that will benefit from them. Some of our kids don't have advocates for them or resources at home. Some don't even have transportation. I will occasionally help set up home health over the summer. Health literacy for the parents, specifically in my school's demographic, is a huge part of our summer goal.
Kelli: What are your best tips to survive the summer without electronics and school-age kids?
Allee: I told all my kids go outside and play! They need to roll in grass, play in water, go to the playground. Come up with obstacle courses and games. Create outside!
Kelli: Best PT advice for parents?
Allee: I wish all parents took a closer look at kids shoes. They need flexible soles and wide sole bases. Good supportive rubber shoes. So skip the crocs and natives when you can!
Kelli: What else would you like others to know about school-based PTs?
Allee: Kids have to be on an IEP to get PT. They have to have some special education recommendation, other health impairment, or an academic need. Something keeping them apart from where they need to be with their peers.
A HUGE thank you to Dr. Tatum for educating us on school-based PT. Dr. Tatum also loves educating new parents on developmental milestones in infants and postpartum rehab. Want to learn more or book an appointment with Dr. Tatum? Check her out below!