News Article


Shelby County Schools Receive Guidance on What Counts As Therapy Time

As the school year is beginning in Shelby County, families are having initials interactions with personnel from the newly unified school system, Shelby County Schools. STEP staff is working hard to ensure that families have accurate and timely information so that children and youth with disabilities are receiving needed services without interruption.

If your child receives Occupational Therapy or Physical Therapy as a related service in their Individualized Education Program (IEP), please read the information below about how therapy services must be delivered.

Latest News on Occupational and Physical Therapy Services

STEP was recently informed that Shelby County Schools Occupational Therapy and Physical Therapy providers were provided information in an email that the amount of related service time in the IEP represented ALL of the following:

"time spent with the student, and on behalf of the student, represents the amount of time of the therapy service to be provided. This includes providing student intervention or supports, staff or parent training, modifications, consultation with the regular education teacher, collaborations with the special education teacher or other team members, designing and planning, and ongoing assessment that require the skills of a therapist.”

That information is not accurate.

STEP contacted Mr. Bill Wilson, Assistant General Counsel for Special Education with the Tennessee Department of Education for clarification on this issue.

Mr. Wilson provided the following guidance to Shelby County Schools:

“Children with disabilities should receive the total number of minutes of related services as prescribed in the IEP.  If an IEP prescribes 30 minutes of occupational therapy, that means 30 minutes of actual therapy service, not expending a portion of the prescribed time setting up equipment, meeting with staff, etc., thereby reducing the time prescribed by the IEP team to benefit the child.”

Mr. Wilson reported: “We are advised that steps are being taken to correct the practice.”

What this mean for your child?

Your child should be receiving the direct therapy services agreed to in their Individualized Education Plan. If there is a need for the therapist to consult with the teacher, the IEP team should discuss that need and include additional consultation time in the IEP to address that need.

Where can you get more information?

There will be an opportunity to directly ask the Director of Shelby County Schools, Dr. Toarmina, what steps have been taken to correct the practice and address other concerns at an upcoming meeting.

SEPTA (Special Education Parent Teacher Association) meeting

Date:                Thursday, September 5, 2013
Time:                6:30 pm
Location:          East Win Christian Church 
4350 Hacks Cross Road, Memphis

If you prefer to contact Dr. Toarmina sooner regarding this issue or other concerns, her email address is

STEP Is Available to Provide Information, Training, and Support

The West TN STEP staff will be happy to provide you with assistance in navigating special education services. Many workshops and training events are available as well.

STEP West TN Staff:

Derek Flake, West TN Regional Coordinator,

Martha Lopez, Bilingual Family Education Specialist,

Memphis Office: 2157 Madison Ave. Ste. 204, Memphis
Phone: 901/726-4334

Workshop and Training Opportunities:

STEP's mission is to empower parents through information, training, and support to become effective partners with professionals in planning appropriate educational programs for their children with disabilities.

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