Physical therapy isn’t just for adults. There are several diagnoses in which children may need the aid of a therapist. OCH Christian County Clinic physical therapist Jennifer Garner, DPT shares more about what parents can be looking for:

When people hear the term physical therapy (PT), most often they think of adults going through rehabilitation. However, physical therapy can be an integral part of children’s lives, too. Pediatric physical therapists work with children aged birth through adolescents with a wide range of diagnoses. These can include, but are not limited to:

  • Orthopedic Problems: Trauma, joint pain, hip dysplasia, torticollis, post-surgical issues, postural problems.
  • Neurological Issues: Movement and coordination disorders, cerebral palsy, autism, brain abnormalities.
  • Developmental Delays: General delays in gross motor development.
  • Gait Abnormalities: Intoeing, outtoeing, toe walking, leg length discrepancies.
  • Congenital Disorders: Spina bifida, Down syndrome, numerous other syndromes.

Pediatric PTs address children’s gross motor skills. These skills are typically defined as large movements of the body (rolling, sitting, crawling, walking, jumping, going up/down stairs, etc.) Therapists also teach techniques and activities to increase balance, strength, coordination, and motor control. Many of these activities are incorporated into play, as it is a fun way to get children involved and not realize they are working on important skills. Therapy is not always fun, but PTs try their best to make each visit an enjoyable experience.

PARENTS PLAY A VITAL ROLE IN CHILDREN’S PROGRESS WITH THERAPY.  This is so important to remember. Children will generally be seen 30 minutes to an hour, 1-2 times per week. This is not meant to “fix” the issues your child has. Rather, it is an opportunity for the therapist to monitor progress, present new skills, teach new activities, and assist with the progress of your child. PTs will give you, as the parent, a home exercise program and/or activities to be working on with the child at home so that they become a part of the child’s daily routine. Progress is truly made at home with the guidance of a therapist.

So what is the course of therapy typically like? First, it is important to remember that no two children are alike; siblings may even vary big time in the way they learn and develop. Therefore, there is no “typical.” However, each child that is referred to PT will undergo an evaluation by a licensed physical therapist. The evaluation will vary slightly based on the child’s diagnosis and severity of the condition. All evaluations follow a general SOAP (Subjective, Objective, Assessment, Plan) form.

  • Subjective: The PT will ask you about your child’s medical history, current problems/status, and what your goals are for therapy.
  • Objective: The PT will perform an objective assessment through professional observation and testing. This may include:
    • Posture
    • Palpation
    • Range of Motion
    • Flexibility
    • Strength
    • Reflexes
    • Mobility
    • Gait
    • Current level of gross motor development through standardized testing
  • Assessment: The therapist will determine the need for therapy and which areas of gross motor development and other issues should be addressed.
  • Plan: The therapist will outline a plan of care for your child including the frequency and duration of therapy*, as well as appropriate short and long term goals designed with the parent’s input.

*Frequency and duration will vary depending on the child’s diagnosis and severity as well as current skill level.

What should you do if you have concerns regarding your child’s gross motor development? First, discuss your concerns with your pediatrician or health care provider. If deemed necessary, they will make a referral for physical therapy. In the state of Missouri, it is necessary to have a physician referral in order for your child to have a physical therapy evaluation. Do not hesitate to discuss any concerns with your healthcare provider as all parental concerns, no matter how insignificant they may seem, are valid. Remember, you are your child’s biggest advocate!

Jennifer works at OCH Christian County Clinic in Nixa. She received both her Bachelor of Science in Psychology and Doctorate in Physical Therapy from Missouri State University. She has experience in inpatient, outpatient, home health and pediatric  settings. Her primary interest in physical therapy is pediatrics, specifically the 0-3 age group covering a variety of diagnoses. To contact Jennifer, call OCH Christian County Clinic (417) 724-3004. For more information visit http://www.OCHonline.com. 


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