What is PT and how can it help my child?

What is PT?

Pediatric physical therapists (PTs) work alongside children birth through school age with a focus on assisting them with their physical impairments impacting balance, coordination, quality of movement, mobility or age appropriate gross motor skills. The PT will tailor each child’s treatment based upon their needs and goals.

Family and client education are a vital component of successful treatment sessions and are utilized regularly throughout the course of a child’s treatment plan. Physical therapists utilize a team centered approach of care collaborating with physicians, community providers to secure medical equipment including orthotics, medical equipment and assistive devices as needed.We apply a child centered approach relying on family involvement to create an individualized treatment plan with functional based goals applicable to their home, community and school settings.

Pediatric physical therapists provide the following services to address patient oriented goals:  

• Developmental activities • Movement and mobility • Strengthening • Motor learning • Balance and coordination • Recreation, play, and leisure • Daily care activities and routines • Equipment consultation and fitting • Tone management • Posture, positioning, and lifting • Orthotics and prosthetics training • Cardiopulmonary endurance • Pain management

Benefits of Pediatric Physical Therapy

  • Increased independence with functional mobility activities
  • Development of efficient movement patterns and posture
  • Increased conditioning and endurance
  • Increased stability and control during functional tasks and recreational activities
  • Improved ability to safely navigate home and community environments
  • Increased participation in recreational activities with family and friends
  • Increased success meeting developmental milestones

Some specific challenges that Physical Therapy focuses on

  • Abnormal gait pattern
  • Hypertonia (high muscle tone)
  • Hypotonia (low muscle tone)
  • Decreased flexibility and decreased range of motion
  • Core or lower extremity weakness
  • Frequent loss of balance
  • Ligament laxity
  • Poor posture
  • Pain
  • Overall decreased strength
  • Poor endurance
  • Delayed developmental milestones
  • Lack of coordination
  • Asymmetrical movement patterns

Diagnoses that PTs might work with

  • Autism Spectrum Disorder
  • Amputations
  • Cerebral Palsy
  • Childhood Leukemia
  • Concussion
  • Developmental Coordination Disorder
  • Developmental Delay
  • Diabetes
  • Down Syndrome
  • Female Athlete Triad
  • Head-Shape Flatness in Infants: Plagiocephaly, Brachycephaly, and Scaphocephy
  • Hydrocephalus
  • Idiopathic Toe Walking
  • Infantile Brachial Plexus
  • Infant Prematurity
  • Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis
  • Muscular Dystrophy
  • Musculoskeletal injuries
  • Osgood-Schlatter Disease
  • Scoliosis
  • Slipped Capital Femoral Epiphysis
  • Spina Bifida
  • Spinal Cord Injury
  • Spinal Muscular Atrophy
  • Stroke
  • Torticollis and Plagiocephaly
  • Traumatic Brain Injury

School PT vs Outpatient PT

What PT looks like in schools

For school physical therapy the type of service is based on the individual child’s needs and ability to access the curriculum in the school setting. Goals are based on a child’s ability to participate but not necessarily the quality of the movement patterns. For example the focus for a child would be to climb the stairs safely but not focused on the quality of movements such as an alternating leg pattern. The school therapists can identify strategies that the school staff and parents can use to increase a child’s function within the school setting and overall independence. School based services are not intended to replace or be in lieu of medical or rehabilitative physical therapy services. 

What PT looks like in an outpatient setting

Outpatient physical therapy are for children who have goals that are outside of what the school is mandated to address and if their focus is on the quality of movements. Additionally, they work with children who have goals to get back to their previous level of functioning, challenges with functional mobility tasks that are outside of the school environment and work with children that do not qualify for school based services but parents have concerns about quality of movement or other functional mobility tasks.