YES, there are differences in therapy at school and outpatient services
Your child may qualify for Early Intervention Part C services if they are under the age of 3 years. They may qualify for school based services if they are over the age of 3. So why do you need outpatient services?
Early Intervention Part C services are provided to train, equip, and support parents/caregivers in being the first and best teacher for their child.
To be eligible for services, the child must have at least a 25 percent delay in one developmental area or have a diagnosed condition that will result in developmental delay. Services are provided by a variety of individuals.
Occupational and physical therapy provided through the public school system are categorized as related services. This means that in order for a child to receive occupational or physical therapy as a free service through the public school, the child must qualify for special education services. In the state of Alabama, speech/language impairment is considered a disability area and a child can qualify for speech therapy services at school even if they do not receive any other types of academic special education services. The state has a specific criterion, or test score, that a child must score below in order to qualify for these services.
While school and early intervention therapists are highly qualified and perform an excellent service, these services are not meant to be intensive. Research is clear that children receiving intensive therapy services, especially at an early age, show significant progress.
Services provided through early intervention and the public school system have specific guidelines and criteria. Criteria for outpatient therapy is different. Children often need therapy services even when they do not qualify for early intervention or school based services.
Not every child that receives school based services needs outpatient services.
Some children who do not qualify for school based services may still need outpatient services.
Article and Resources for understanding the differences in service delivery models