Physical therapists are often involved in helping children achieve and improve mobility and maximize their ability to function more independently.
Physical therapists work with children and their families to promote participation in home, school, and community activities. The physical therapist will work with the child’s family, teachers, doctors, and other health care or rehabilitation specialists to enable the child to reach his or her maximum level of independence.
The physical therapist may work with the child at any age from infancy to adolescence. As soon as a physical or motor deficit is identified by the teacher, doctor, parent, or other involved individual, a physical therapist is often consulted to assess the deficit; educate and coordinate all those involved and engaged with the child; and develop a plan of care for the child to improve mobility and function, and help the child to maximize his or her quality of life.
Children who benefit from physical therapy services include children with cerebral palsy (brain injury), Erb’s palsy (a nerve injury), torticollis (neck stiffness), developmental delay, generalized or specific weaknesses, postural abnormalities, musculoskeletal dysfunction, amputation, toe walking, gait abnormalities, poor balance, or any other condition involving the musculoskeletal or nervous system that affects mobility or function.
The physical therapist will assist the child in learning to participate in school activities, recreation, interactions with family, or integration into the community. This may involve helping to manage high or low muscle tone, assisting in motor planning, or using developmental activities to help the child reach developmental milestones. The physical therapist can also teach a child to use assistive technology or devices such as wheelchairs, mechanical lifts, crutches, canes, buttons, etc. The physical therapist can also help a child to learn to use prosthetic limbs or can fit the child with orthotic devices (braces) which will help the child to walk more effectively and efficiently.
Physical therapists also work with teachers and parents to adapt activities so that the child can safely and effectively participate in those activities. The family has the primary role in managing a child with special needs; the pediatric physical therapist works with the family to adapt the environment, toys, utensils, etc. for the child. The physical therapist also educates caregivers in appropriate positioning and mobility options. The therapists also serves as a good resource for the family when questions or issues arise as the child grows and develops.
Many physical therapists also help to promote active lifestyles in all children through collaboration with the physical education teachers at schools. This involvement helps to promote maximum development of all children, despite their current level of physical maturity or motor development.