Physical therapists utilize their specific knowledge base of anatomy, neurology, and physiology to observe and assess how a child moves from one position to another as well as how strength, balance, and coordination affect movement patterns. Specifically for children, a detailed understanding of normal motor development and gross motor milestones is essential. These motor skills are the foundations of moving successfully in the world. Also, therapeutic intervention is always play-based so that the child is motivated to participate in activities that are physically challenging.
The following functional skills (how the child maneuvers around the environment) are addressed by physical therapists:
- Cruising (e.g., walking along the edge of the couch)
- Navigating the playground
- Participating in recreation
Physical therapists can address a variety of issues, some we may be familiar with, and some we are not. Physical therapists address the most common developmental delays, such as with gross motor skill development (rolling, sitting, crawling, standing and walking), decreased strength, decreased balance and decreased overall coordination. Physical therapists are also trained to address many other areas, including children who may have a neurological or genetic disorder, or children who have abnormal or poor posture, abnormal muscle tone influencing gross motor skills, awkward walking, jumping or running patterns and toe walkers.
If you’re concerned about your child’s physical development, it’s best to first speak with your pediatrician. If it’s determined an evaluation is appropriate, your doctor will provide you with a prescription for a Physical Therapy evaluation. After the evaluation, the therapist will analyze the clinical findings and recommend the most appropriate plan to move forward, including, if treatment is recommended, what specific goals should be addressed, and what you can do to support your child’s program at home.
Questions about Physical Therapy:
Also see FAQ page for more information
What does a physical therapist do during the evaluation?
A physical therapist will evaluate a child’s physical skills using a variety of methods including standardized testing and clinical observations through play. Underlying muscle tone, joint range of motion, and balance is measured, acquisition of gross motor milestones is assessed, and a parent/child interview is completed. If there are areas of concern with the child’s motor patterns, quality of movement or if meeting gross motor milestones falls behind typical expectations, therapy likely will be recommended.
Does my child need therapy, won’t he just catch up?
Unfortunately, there isn’t one simple answer to this question. Certain developmental difficulties may be fall within typical expectations, or may be slightly on the later end of typical, while other concerns may not be typical. Therefore, it would be important to speak with a clinician regarding your specific areas of concern. It’s most appropriate for your child to be evaluated to determine if therapy would be appropriate.
What should I tell my child about why we are coming?
Therapy is often fun for the child. Our clinicians use a play-based approach for all intervention plans. Depending on the type of therapy your child is receiving, you can share with your child that he is going to play. Examples of what your child will be doing include getting to swing, crash in the ball pit, jump on the trampoline, walk on the balance beam, play talking games, color/draw, or set up fun obstacle courses. If your child asks why, you can share that he is coming to help him move his body in a more coordinated manner, get stronger muscles, and/or hold the pencil correctly.
When should I start therapy with my child?
Early intervention is essential to reaching optimal progress in the shortest period of time. Therefore, if your child has been evaluated and your therapist recommends services, starting therapy right away is best.
My child is 18 months old, why isn’t he walking?
According to developmental milestones, walking should be achieved between 9 and 18 months of age. If your child isn’t walking by 18 months, this is considered a delay in his gross motor development. A physical therapy evaluation would be appropriate to determine the cause of the delay.
Why is my child clumsy and falls a lot?
There can be many reasons why your child may fall often. Some children demonstrate poor balance and equilibrium responses making it difficult to catch himself when falling and thus appearing clumsy. Some children have a poor sense of where their body is in space, resulting in frequent bumping or leaning into others, and falling often. A physical or occupational therapist can assess what the underlying cause is and what type of therapy is most appropriate.
Why does my child walk on his toes?
Some children have tight heel cords. This makes walking flat foot difficult and results with the child maintaining a tip-toe position when walking. Other children may be seeking additional sensory input that they are able to gain via toe walking. A physical or occupational therapist can assess what the underlying cause is and what type of therapy is most appropriate.
We receive Birth to Three services, why do we need more therapy?
Birth to Three is based upon a teaching model. The clinician is there to teach you how to interact and carry over their therapeutic suggestions. Often times, the frequency is less than what is optimal for your child’s needs. The Center for Pediatric Therapy is able to provide individualized services at the frequency appropriate for your child. Many times it is best to receive Birth to Three services and medically based services at the same time. This is such a critical period of development and it has been proven that early intervention provides the best outcome.
My doctor said my child isn’t meeting his developmental milestones. What does this mean?
There is an average range of when certain skills should be met, such as crawling, sitting, and walking. If your child isn’t meeting developmental milestones as expected, it means he is achieving skills outside of this typical range. It is important to find out what is causing this. Some children are late bloomers and some have an underlying reason as to why mastering skills is difficult.