South African physiotherapists’ perspectives on the competencies needed to work in special schools for learners with special needs

Machuene C. Manamela*, Carina A. Eksteen, Bhekiwe Mtshali, Shade A.S. Olorunju

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Investigation into, and description of competencies in the various sectors in which the physiotherapy profession is practised, contribute to the standardisation of practice, professional education, and guides research and administration, and is necessary in South Africa. Objective: To identify the competencies implemented by physiotherapists working in an educational setting for learners with special needs and to determine physiotherapists’ opinions on the identified competencies. Methods: A sequential mixed method research design was implemented to explore the competencies that physiotherapists implement during their intervention for children with special needs through focus group discussions (FGDs). A questionnaire based on the statements that emerged from the thematic analysis of the transcribed FGDs, and validated, was implemented in a cross-sectional survey amongst all physiotherapists employed in special schools. SPSS version 24 was used for the analysis of closed responses and thematic analysis was done on open-ended responses (n = 22). Results: The respondents’ knowledge and skills regarding physiotherapy theories and implementation ranged from ‘good’ to ‘very good’. However, integration of the therapeutic knowledge and skills in different aspects of the special educational environment, and community integration, were rated ‘poor’ to ‘fair’. Support of physiotherapists to implement policies and procedures, and to attend continuing professional development, ranged from ‘fair’ to ‘poor’. Conclusion: Lack of knowledge in educational policies and procedures in classroom strategies negatively influence the integration of therapeutic strategies in the special educational environment. Clinical implications: The contribution of our study to learners with special needs in schools was outlined.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbera1571
JournalSouth African Journal of Physiotherapy
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2021


  • Competencies
  • Framework
  • Policies and procedures
  • Special needs
  • Special schools


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