Why would a child need physical Therapy?

You think your child needs Physical Therapy, now what???
 I always say that parents know best.  They spend the most time with their children, see how they interact with their environment and with their peers, and can sense if something just seems wrong.  If you have that gut feeling that your child is just not progressing the way they should be, than you are most likely correct.  Many children require physical therapy to help them get started, make progress, or adaptations to “normal” motor development.  Talk to your pediatrician and get started with some physical therapy.  My mantra is the sooner the better; and even a little help makes a huge difference. I am not an expert on Early Intervention (EI), but having referred many children, I know why most kids need physical therapy across multiple diagnosis: low tone, high tone and delay in motor milestones most likely because of one of the two.
  1. Low Tone: If your child seems floppy, weak, or extra flexible this is low tone.  Low tone makes it difficult for children to move into various positions.  PT will focus on strengthening your child’s core muscles to give them a strong base, and then move them in and out of various developmentally appropriate positions.  Tummy time, rolling, sitting, standing, cruising.
  2. High Tone: If your child seems very stiff or rigid and it is difficult to bend their arms and legs this is high tone.  Stretching, relaxation techniques, and again developmental positions will all be the focus of PT.  Parents will most often be taught range of motion and stretching to help prevent loss of motion.
  3. Delay in milestones: This is often the red flag that brought you to your pediatrician in the first place.  Figuring out why your child isn’t rolling, sitting, or walking is going to be broken down into pieces that will be addressed through various strengthening exercises.  They most often will tie into the above mentioned tone.
  Equipment may also be addressed to help get your child up and moving.  Foot and ankle braces may be recommended for both high and low tone to assist with standing and walking, a helmet to address a flattened spot on the skull from immobility or neck stiffness are just a few. Talk to your PT about what is difficult in your daily routine and they can help you brainstorm a way to make you and your child’s life a little easier.
Having mentioned these tools for little ones, I also want to touch on what to do if these are still an issue with your child once they age out of early intervention.  I am a big advocate of hippotherapy or therapeutic horse back riding, karate, adaptive dance and swimming to address these developmental issues.  All are empowering to a young person, especially one with special needs, because they allow them to be like their peers.  They provide for core and total body strengthening, stretching, and a physical therapy treatment that doesn’t feel like work, but more like play.  All of these activities are becoming more present in the community so look around you for a program that might address your child’s needs and personality.
This is just the tip of the iceberg on why your child may need PT and ways to address their needs.  The take home message is that if you think your child may need some help, reach out and get it so that their needs can be addressed early to allow for the best outcome as they grow.
Colleen Reilly PT