Has your child been diagnosed with a physical disability?
Are they not reaching the developmental milestones you expected?
Is your child having a difficult time physically keeping up with their peers?
Is your child’s autism spectrum disorder, cerebral palsy, or Down syndrome making it difficult for them to move about the world and explore?
If so, pediatric physical therapy treatments can help.
While we often think of physical therapy as being geared toward recovering from injuries or accidents, that’s only one angle. Pediatric physical therapy is geared toward helping infants and young children with developmental issues.
Here at Little Feet Therapy, one of the pediatric therapy services we offer is physical therapy.
Read on to find out more about pediatric physical therapy and how it can help your child.
What Is Pediatric Physical Therapy?
Pediatric physical therapy is a field of physical therapy that helps infants and young children with gross motor movement. In particular, it helps with delays in meeting gross motor milestones, avoiding movement dysfunctions, with regaining their movement abilities after an injury, and with minimizing the effects of physical disabilities.
If your infant or young child is struggling with movement, for whatever reason, a pediatric physical therapist can help.
Why Do Children Need Pediatric Physical Therapy?
When babies are first born, they’re a blank slate, so to speak – a little bundle of instinct.
From the minute they emerge into this world, however, they begin learning. And it’s their physical abilities that help them do this.
Babies can’t read books, and they can’t understand the words being said to them. However, they can still interact with their world through their senses, and in this case that includes play.
During these early formative years, babies will learn many different concepts on an intuitive level, just by interacting with the world.
They throw their favorite toy, the toy breaks, they get sad.
They run on a slippery surface, they slip and fall, it hurts.
This teaches them things like:
- Spatial awareness
- Cause and effect
- Gross motor skills
- Fine motor skills
- Object permanence
- And much more
However, this relies on their being able to explore the world with their physical bodies. And physical disabilities can make this difficult.
A pediatric physical therapist can, in some cases, help your child to fully overcome their physical disabilities. Where that isn’t possible, a pediatric physical therapist can reduce the impact of your child’s disabilities, helping them to better move about and explore the world around them.
Pediatric Physical Therapy Milestones
Every child develops at different levels.
When your baby is first born, they won’t be able to do much more than breastfeed, cry, move their arms about without any particular intent, and soil themselves. However, their motor skills begin developing immediately after that.
At this early stage in your child’s life, their sole duty is to explore the world around them. And as they grow, their physical abilities do as well.
There are so many different ways that children are different from each other that it would be just about impossible to list them all. So if your child’s development is progressing at a rate that’s different from the other kids in your play group or a previous child, it’s not cause for alarm.
However, there are some general milestones you can expect your baby to reach. If your baby is falling significantly behind in meeting these milestones, or isn’t making any progress toward them at all, it’s a good idea to seek out pediatric physical therapy.
If your baby isn’t meeting the expected physical therapy milestones it may look like the following:
- Has an unusually shaped head – flat, lopsided, or stretched
- Difficulty lifting their head
- Head tilting to one side more than the other
- Neck is stiff or always pushing back
- Hands constantly held in fists
- Little or no movement in limbs
- Back is constantly arched backward
- Feels stiff when you hold them
- Feels limp when you hold them
- Not rolling back to belly and belly to back
- Difficulty tolerating tummy time or unable to push up onto hands when on their belly
- Always flexed or extended arms
- Sitting with a curved or hunched back
- Legs are frequently stiff
- Has trouble grabbing objects
- Has trouble reaching for objects
- Has difficulty moving to and from sitting from laying
- Doesn’t use both hands
- Has difficulty crawling
- Has difficulty sitting without supporting themselves with their arms
- Has difficulty crawling
- Favors one side of their body for movement
- Can’t support themselves with their legs, with or without help
- Has difficulty using their legs to pull themselves up to stand
- Has difficulty or is not cruising
- Sits with their weight leaning to one side
- Difficulty walking, or cannot walk at all
- Walks on their tiptoes
- Poor balance and constant falling
- Difficulty navigating walking up and down stairs with assistance
- Has difficulty moving from standing to squatting position
- Has difficulty moving from sitting to standing without support
- Difficulty or unable to run
- Not walking with a heel toe gait pattern
- Has difficulty or is unable to walk up and down steps without railings or hand held
- Unable to jump with two feet together
- Is unable to kick a ball without losing balance
- Has difficulty catching and throwing a medium ball
- Unable to walk or reach up on tiptoes
- Unable to jump down from a step with feet together and safely land with feet together
- Has difficulty balancing on one foot for at least 5 seconds
- Unable to walk up and down steps with alternating feet without railing or hand held
- Unable to jump forward greater than 24 inches
- Unable to hop on one foot at least 4 times consecutively
- Has difficulty balancing on one foot for 10 seconds
- Has difficulty with coordination (ie galloping, jumping jacks, skipping)
- Unable to walk on straight line without stepping off
- Unable to walk up and down stairs reciprocally without rail
- Has difficulty with jumping rope and hopscotch
- Has difficulty catching and throwing a tennis ball
- Has difficulty jumping side to side and backwards
What Can Cause These Issues?
In some cases, it’s difficult to find an underlying reason for developmental delays in children.
However, there is a long list of conditions which may cause the above symptoms. These include, but not limited to:
- Down syndrome
- Heart conditions
- Spina bifida
- utism spectrum disorder
- Sensory processing disorder
- Acquired brain injury
- Developmental disabilities
- Cerebral palsy
- Neurological disorders
- Lung conditions
- Muscle disorders
- Myofascial disorders
- Fetal alcohol syndrome
- Orthopedic conditions
- Genetic/chromosomal abnormalities
Through pediatric physical therapy, your child can still live a fulfilling and independent life regardless of their disability.
Depending on your child’s diagnosis, your pediatric physical therapist may also suggest pediatric occupational therapy treatment as well – they will discuss these options with you.
If your child has received a diagnosis listed above, or you’re seeing them fall behind in meeting the milestones listed, it can be frightening.
But there is help.
Book your appointment with Little Feet Therapy today to find out how.