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Every student deserves the ability to succeed in the classroom and beyond. The IDEA and ESSA make that possible.

The Individuals with Disabilities in Education Act (IDEA) and the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) are federal laws, with state education agency oversight, that support the provision of public education for all children, regardless of the presence, nature, or severity of a disability.

In these laws, physical therapy is identified as a meaningful service within the school system, and designated as a "related service" (IDEA) or "pupil service" (ESSA). Nearly 7,000 physical therapists work in the school setting across the U.S., serving both the general education and special education student populations.

Why It Matters

The physical therapy profession is about helping people live their lives to the fullest, regardless of age. We can make a significant impact in the lives of children when we're provided the opportunities and resources to do so, and the IDEA and ESSA help to make that possible. Our work with children helps to build better futures for everyone.

Our Position

All students deserve the ability to succeed in the classroom and beyond. The IDEA and ESSA help to make this possible. It's important that APTA stay engaged with the federal government to pursue legislation, regulations, and other policies that secure and improve the ability of PTs  to provide their services in the school setting under IDEA and ESSA.

Recommended Content

The Keep Our Promise to America’s Children and Teachers Act

Jul 1, 2021 / Position Paper

Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA)

Jun 1, 2017 / Article

Additional IDEA and ESSA Advocacy Content

APTA to Congress: Keep Your Funding Promises to Children With Disabilities

Jul 26, 2023 / News

APTA-supported IDEA legislation has arrived on Capitol Hill; meanwhile, APTA is taking its message directly to congressional leaders.

APTA Adds Its Voice to Multi-Organization Advocacy Efforts

May 11, 2021 / Roundup

We're seizing opportunities to amplify our public policy messages — here's a sampling of some of the issue letters we've signed on to.

Lessons From COVID-19: We're Working for Change That Outlasts the Pandemic

Jun 15, 2020 / Roundup

An emergency regulatory relief order is an opportunity to share our ideas on making lasting change at several federal agencies.

Designation of Individuals with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities

Jun 3, 2015 / Policies & Bylaws

House position: Describes the designation of individuals with intellectual disabilities and developmental disabilities, or both, as a medically under-served population.

Physical Therapy For Individuals With Disabilities

Aug 7, 2012 / Policies & Bylaws

House position: APTA supports the provision of physical therapy services to children with special needs.

Americans with Disabilities: Role of APTA

Aug 1, 2012 / Policies & Bylaws

House position: Outlines role of the APTA as an advocate for full inclusion of people with disabilities in all aspects of community life and within the profession of physical therapy.