What does pediatric physical therapist do?
What is a Pediatric Physical Therapist?
If your child needs physical therapy, they’ll work with a pediatric physical therapist (PT). Typically, pediatric PTs treat kids under 18, from newborns to teenagers. They see children for a variety of different reasons, including bone/muscle issues, sports-related injuries, or genetic, brain, spine, or nerve disorders.
PTs have years of training, and some even earn a Doctor of Physical Therapy degree.
What do Pediatric Physical Therapists do?
When it comes to working with children, a physical therapist works on the same underlying deficits as they do when working with adults, but in the context of children’s mobility and movements. In infants, physical therapists work on the infant’s gross motor skill development. This means that PT’s work with infants to help them in terms of learning how to move within their environment. This includes learning how to roll over, sit up, crawl, stand, walk, etc.
In older children, physical therapists continue to work on mobility—helping them run, jump and play. PT’s can also address a variety of other movement concerns including coordination deficits, balance deficits, and decreased core strength.
Pediatric PT’s will also treat children after injury and surgery, addressing the needs of the child to help them through their rehabilitation process. Click here for more on the role of pediatric physical therapy.
How do I know if my child needs physical therapy?
- After an injury (from a fall, during a sporting event, etc.)
- After a surgery
- If your child frequently falls, trips or slips and seems to be off balance
- If your child has difficulty keeping up with his/her peers on the playground or at school
- If your child has difficulty with coordinating his/her movements including tasks such as jumping jacks
- If your child chronically complains of pain in the same body part
- If your child is developmentally delayed- for details see below
Pediatric physical therapists work in neonatal intensive care units, schools, outpatient treatment centers, hospitals, rehabilitation facilities, or directly in the child’s home. They also work in international development, and in disaster settings where they may treat children who have lost limbs due to landmines or war-related trauma. Pediatric PTs usually have a deep desire and a natural aptitude for working with special needs children and their families.
Depending on the setting, work hours vary. Therapists who work in hospitals, clinics, rehabilitation facilities, and similar settings often enjoy the option to work full or part time. Those working in schools find their schedules influenced by school hours. Therapists performing in-home care often must adjust their schedules to provide services to children during hours when they are home, making evening or weekend visits if necessary.
Things You Should Know About Pediatric Physical Therapy
With pediatric physical therapy, kids who are injured or who have certain health conditions can reach their full potential and function better at home, in school, and in other environments. If you’re considering whether your child could benefit from working with a pediatric physical therapist, here are some basic facts you should know about this type of health care.
1. Treating injured children is different from helping adults and requires a unique approach. Pediatric physical therapy must involve a team of experts trained specifically to deal with kids’ bone and muscle structure. Additionally, therapists must demonstrate a high level of patience and compassion, since children might not understand the need for physical therapy and can have more trouble staying on task than adults would.
2. Parents and family members become part of the process. Pediatric physical therapists work not only with the child who needs treatment but also with family members. A child’s caretakers play a vital role in successfully enacting a treatment program. Therapists can support families in advancing their children’s development and physical therapy progress by offering services such as providing specific information on the patient’s needs, offering guidance on using physical therapy equipment directly, and more, according to the APTA.
3. Insurance coverage for pediatric physical therapy varies. If your child needs physical therapy, it’s important to review your health insurance policy or program to see what types of treatment it covers and what the reimbursement levels are for those services, the APTA states. Additionally, it helps to become familiar with laws that require and affect the provision of pediatric physical therapy, such as the Individuals With Disabilities Act, the Rehabilitation Act (Section 504), and the Americans With Disabilities Act.
4. Pediatric physical therapy can benefit children dealing with a wide range of conditions. Physical therapy can help kids in various circumstances. Pediatric physical therapists at Little Steps specialize (but aren’t limited to) the following:
- Developmental delay
- Birth defects
- Muscle diseases
- Genetic disorders
- Cerebral palsy
- Acute trauma
- Head injury
- Sports injury
- Orthopedic disabilities/injury
Benefits of Physical Therapy
You are probably asking yourself, what are the main benefits that come with pediatric physical therapy? We have listed below the essentials involved our services, the benefits that come with it and the experience your child will get.
Physical therapy rehabilitation is extremely important after an injury and there is no question that those who go through physical therapy end up in much better shape in the long run and return to full activity much sooner. In fact, a great deal of the time those people that do not have a physical therapy plan after a surgery or an injury that is guided to healing their specific problem do not return to the level of activity that they had in the past. Because of this, it is very important to take any type of physical therapy with the utmost of importance.
What Can My Child Improve On?
- Range of Motion – how far a joint can bend or straighten
- Strength – strength against gravity
- Balance – ability to maintain balance (tilting and righting responses) and to keep oneself from falling (protective responses)
- Reflexes – automatic responses seen particularly in infants (palmar grasp, positive support, asymmetrical tonic neck reflex [ATNR] and labyrinthine)
- Posture – alignment of the body in various positions
- Tone – natural resistance in a muscle (increased tone is stiffness and decreased tone is floppiness)