School-Based Physical Therapists’ Experiences and Perceptions of How Student Goals Influence Services and Outcomes

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Aims: Individualized goals are the foundation for physical therapy services and outcomes. This research describes school-based physical therapists’ (PTs) experiences and perceptions of how student goals impact services and outcomes. Methods: Twenty school-based PTs participated in one of five semi-structured focus groups on goal development and use. Therapists were recruited from 113 therapists who participated in a study of school-based physical therapy outcomes. Two researchers conducted thematic analysis of written transcriptions of audio recordings to identify qualitative themes; a third researcher reviewed the analysis. Results: Four themes emerged related to how goals impact services: (1) the nature of services, (2) intervention strategies, (3) teaming, and (4) flexibility of services. Three themes emerged related to how goals impact outcomes: (1) natural linkages among goals, services, and outcomes; (2) goals impact teaming to achieve outcomes; and (3) specifics of the goal matter. Therapists also reported a range of student and environmental factors that impact services and outcomes. Conclusions: Therapists perceive that goals influence services and outcomes in complex ways, especially due to the flexibility and individualization needed in school-based practice. This study helps school-based PTs understand and reflect on how individualized goals influence services and optimize student outcomes.

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Physical and Occupational Therapy in Pediatrics

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