Does My Child Need Physical Therapy?

Whether your teenager sustained an injury playing a sport or if your young child isn't able to keep up with their peers, pediatric physical therapy can be used to treat many conditions or injuries for patients under 21 years old. On World Pediatric Bone & Joint Day, we're answering your questions on pediatric physical therapy.


What is Pediatric Physical Therapy?

Pediatric physical therapists treat a wide variety of diagnoses to help children live their best life. By utilizing ‘purposeful play’ and exercise for ages 0-21, infants, toddlers, and children can gain new motor skills or regain old motor skills after injury, as well as facilitate pain control. Purposeful play is used by presenting your child with activities that have the desired goal of improving their function.


Why is Seeing a Pediatric PT Important For My Child?

Pediatric physical therapists understand the inner working of your child's mind to make sessions go as smoothly (and as fun) as possible for improved progress towards your goals. They work hard to make PT a place your child wants to be for a purposeful and positive experience. Pediatric physical therapists often take additional courses after gaining their Doctorate in Physical Therapy to specifically address pediatric concerns. Most importantly, pediatric PTs love working with infants, toddlers, children, and teens!


How Do I Know if My Child Would Benefit From PT?

As it can treat a wide variety of injuries and conditions, it can be difficult to determine if your child needs pediatric physical therapy. One of the most common reasons to enroll in physical therapy is due to an injury from sport, dancing, or gymnastics. Another reason would be if your child isn’t able to keep up while they’re playing with their peers or if your infant isn’t reaching their motor milestones at pediatrician appointments. Or if your child received a diagnosis of:


  • Scoliosis

  • Torticollis

  • Sprain

  • Fracture

  • Autism Spectrum Disorder

  • Hypermobility

  • Bone abnormality


Tips from a Pediatric Physical Therapist

Sarah Goldstein PT, DPT shares some ways to encourage purposeful play in your home.


Purposeful Play for Infants

If you notice your child only looks to one side, try to place their toys on the opposite side to encourage them to look the other way. Choosing toys with a variety of handle sizes will encourage gripping/reaching/holding - smaller, lighter-weight objects are easier to grab. Children also learn cause and effect with using rattles.


Purposeful Play for Toddlers

With toddlers, Sarah often puts out the toys she wants them to use and they ignore them. So she ignores the toys too and usually within a few minutes the child starts playing exactly how she intended them to. If the child isn’t comfortable with jumping over some blocks, the act of stepping helps with balance, standing on one leg, stair climbing, and anticipatory reactions for motor planning. Asking your child to help clean up also works as squat training for them while also giving you less work to do.


What does purposeful play look like for teenagers?

One of the strategies that are used with some of the teenagers, as well as toe walkers, is utilizing a Wii with a balance board. This helps with weight shifting after a fracture or getting input through the whole foot. It’s always helpful to incorporate their favorite sport, game, or activity into their rehab as a reminder of why they are working so hard. For example, a soccer player who can’t run yet due to a sprained ankle can strengthen their kicking leg for power and balance with drills to prepare the ankle to be stable when they’re able to move quicker.


If your child is experiencing pain or isn’t keeping up with their peers, pediatric physical therapy can help them to reach their goals. Contact Performance Physical Therapy at 401.726.7100 to schedule an appointment with a pediatric physical therapist.

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