Pediatric physical therapists specialize in working with children who have a variety of diagnoses including developmental delay, birth defects, congenital conditions, and injuries. Some therapists participate in advanced training offered through the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) to become certified while others take specialty tracks when obtaining their Doctorate Degree. All pediatric therapists must remain committed to lifelong learning through staying abreast of current research and evidence, participating in continuing education courses, and by attending conferences with other therapists and health care professionals.
Pediatric therapists can be found in a variety of settings such as early intervention programs, schools, hospitals, neonatal intensive care units, sports clinics, and in the home or community settings of the child. We work with children from birth, including those born prematurely, up to the age of 21 years. Our patients may present with a variety of childhood disorders and movement dysfunction. Some common conditions include Cerebral Palsy, Torticollis, Autism, Down Syndrome, Muscular Dystrophy, Spina Bifida, Cardio-Pulmonary Disorders, Cancer, Traumatic Brain Injury, Clumsy Child Syndrome, and Arthrogryposis. We also work with kids who have sports injuries, scoliosis, fractures, back pain, and status post orthopedic surgeries.
Our aim is to improve the child’s function and participation with daily activities across multiple environments. We start by gathering information about the child’s medical history, muscle strength, range of motion, muscle tone, joint integrity, mobility, gait, balance, coordination, and sensory processing through an in-depth evaluation process. We may use standardized or norm-reference tests to determine if there is a developmental delay. We then synthesize the information to assess what areas are impeding the child from participating fully in their life activities. Next, we work with the parents to develop a plan of care that includes setting meaningful functional goals. Finally, we implement a treatment plan to help the child achieve the goals.
When observed by a parent or outsider, pediatric therapy can look a lot like play. Creative planning makes therapy lots of fun so the child stays engaged and willing to participate in activities that can be quite challenging for them. We may help a child learn a new skill or relearn a skill they’ve lost such as rolling, crawling, walking, running, jumping or climbing. We may train the family or child in the use of orthotics, prosthetics, standers, walkers, wheelchairs, or crutches. We may instruct parents in the best positions to place a child in to optimize muscle activation and motor learning. We may spend the entire session training a caregiver or parent how to facilitate proper posture, alignment, and movement patterns so they can help the child when the therapist is not present. As a matter of fact, providing a home program that the caregivers can easily imbed in the daily routines of the child is a critical piece to helping the child reach their full potential. We work closely with other health care professionals and caregivers that are involved in the child’s care including pediatricians, nurses, specialty doctors, teachers, orthotists, assistive technology professionals, wheelchair technicians, speech and language pathologists, and occupational therapists.
One of the greatest joys of being a pediatric physical therapist is celebrating with kids and families as they overcome barriers and obstacles to achieve their goals. It’s an amazing feeling to watch the face of a parent as they see their child take their first steps after being told their child will never walk or seeing the child return to their favorite sport after being out with an injury. Most of all, I am inspired daily as I work with medically fragile kids who have overcome heart surgeries, spinal surgeries, brain bleeds, and much more yet they still muster a smile or laugh as they work toward achieving their full potential.
If you are wondering if your child is in need of pediatric physical therapy, give us a call at VIVA Pediatrics (469) 341-7772, opt #3.
We are here to answer any questions you may have.
Dr. Amber Brim, Physical Therapist
September 30, 2019