Physical Therapy for Children
Physical therapy brings help and hope to 250,000 babies born with developmental disabilities, and to another 1.5 million children hospitalized because of accidents, congenital disease and other related injuries. Pediatric physical therapy addresses the mobility and gross motor needs of infants, toddlers and adolescents. Physical therapists work with children of various diagnoses to initially assist them and their families in achieving the child’s highest level of independence.
Pediatric physical therapists are trained to assess the gross motor and sensory functions of the child and will develop individualized treatment with the emphasis on improving the child’s functional skills, to prevent or limit further disability.
Two primary areas that are assessed in therapy are motor planning (how one determines how to accomplish a given task) and the sensory system (how one brings in information from the environment allowing appropriate motor actions to occur). By focusing on developing the child’s motor and sensory systems, physical therapy enhances the gross motor functioning of the child, promoting independence to interact with the environment and others successfully.
In working with children, the family is a critical element if the child is to fully benefit from intervention. Play is most often used in the physical therapist’s treatment, since it is a highly motivating and a natural way of life for children. Often in treatment, physical therapists help children develop strategies they can use to compensate for functions they have lost or are slow to develop. Frequently, physical therapy works in conjunction with occupational and speech therapies, to provide a comprehensive multi-disciplinary approach in achieving a child’s highest level of functioning.
Education, prevention and early intervention are key aspects to ensure that a child reaches the highest level of function. In some circumstances, home modifications are often part of the therapy program, depending on the needs of the child.
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