As National Physical Therapy Month continues, I wanted to share details on what a Pediatric Physical Therapist does. When people ask what I do, and I say that I’m a pediatric physical therapist, I usually get the response, “Kids need PT? For what?!” When I say I also work with infants/toddlers, people then get thoroughly confused.
So what does a pediatric physical therapist do??
- patients’ homes or other natural environments like parks or rec centers (here’s a sample of one of my in-home obstacle courses)
What kind of diagnoses do pediatric PTs work with?
These vary depending where you work, but here are some of the more common diagnoses that are seen:
- cerebral palsy
- spina bifida
- developmental delay
- TBI (traumatic brain injury)
- hypotonia / hypertonia
- genetic conditions- such as down syndrome or angelman’s syndrome
- muscular dystrophy
- post-operative diagnoses- patients that have broken bones or had surgeries on joints (little ones can have major surgeries too!)
- juvenile rheumatoid arthritis
- developmental coordination disorder
Those are just a few of the many diagnoses pediatric physical therapists work with. For the most part however, we usually begin to see patients if they aren’t meeting their gross motor milestones if they are infants or toddlers. We then see older children if they are falling behind their peers with age-related activities in school or extra-curricular activities.
APTA’s Pediatric Section has a great resource for consumers about what pediatric PTs do, which I will summarize here.
What is Pediatric Physical Therapy?
- Pediatric physical therapists (PTs) work with children and their families to assist each child in reaching their maximum potential to function independently and to promote active participation in home, school, and community environments.
- Physical therapists use their expertise in movement and apply clinical reasoning through the process of examination, evaluation, diagnosis, and intervention.
Pediatric physical therapy:
- promotes independence
- increases participation
- facilitates motor development and function
- improves strength and endurance
- enhances learning opportunities
- eases challenges with daily caregiving.
The reason I like working in pediatrics versus working in the other areas of PT, is because I love talking. I feel working in pediatrics allows me to educate more than other areas of PT, because in order to have successful treatments, you have to incorporate the parents and family dynamic into your treatment plan.
What Role Does the Family Play?
- Parents and families have the primary role in their child’s development.
- The pediatric PT collaborates with the family to promote development and implement an individualized intervention program for the child.
- Families are supported through coordination of services, advocacy, and assistance to enhance the development of their child
How Can Your Child Receive Pediatric Physical Therapy?
- The process of supporting children and families begins with an interview, or conversation, to identify the child’s needs and family’s concerns and continues with an examination and evaluation of the child in the context of their daily routines and activities.
- This evaluation may include, but not be limited to, mobility, sensory and neuromotor development, use of assistive technology, muscle and joint function, strength and endurance, cardiopulmonary status, posture and balance, and oral motor skills
Is Your Child Entitled to Physical Therapy Services?
Private and public health insurance programs cover payment for physical therapy, but the services and reimbursement may vary and families should be familiar with the benefits provided by the policy or program.
In addition, provision of pediatric physical therapy is required legislatively by:
- The Individuals With Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), which includes provisions for pediatric physical therapy for children from birth to 21 years of age who are eligible for early intervention (Part C) or special education and related services (Part B).
Find a pediatric PT near you! Or you can also message me if you have questions!