What is Pediatric Physical Therapy and how can it help my family?

Children, from newborns through adolescents, can benefit from PT which, through play-based sessions, focuses on developing, restoring, remediating and improving a child’s functional independence, foundational skills, motor development and mobility. PT works on ensuring that a child is able to navigate throughout their environment in the most functional and independent way possible. Pediatric PT often incorporates neurological, developmental and orthopedic knowledge to ensure that a child has the proper foundations of development in place to excel in life.


How do I know if my child needs Physical Therapy?

If your child experiences any of the following, you may want to consult with a PT:

  • Difficulty walking or running
  • Gets tired very quickly while playing, experiences difficulty playing with age appropriate toys/games
  • Not performing movements or activities that are expected at their age
  • Needs more practice than others to learn a new skill
  • Experiences difficulty jumping, hopping or skipping
  • Muscles appear very floppy or have a ‘doughy’ feel
  • Has a strong preference for turning their head to one side or is only using one side of their body
  • Has developed a flat spot on the back or side of their head
  • ‘w’ sits or props onto their arms when sitting
  • Experiences difficulty with coordinating movements such as running or performing jumping jacks


What will my child be working on in Physical Therapy?

  • Developmental activities
  • Movement and mobility
  • Strengthening
  • Motor learning
  • Balance and coordination
  • Adaptation of daily care activities and routines
  • Tone management
  • Posture, positioning, and lifting
  • Ordering of simple Orthotics and recommendation of complex prosthetics
  • Cardiopulmonary endurance
  • Safety, health promotion, and prevention programs


Some of the treatment techniques include:

  • Peripheral neuromuscular facilitation (PNF)
  • Neurodevelopmental treatment (NDT)
  • Soft tissue and joint mobilization
  • Neuromuscular rehabilitation
  • Therapeutic strengthening and stretching exercises
  • Balance and coordination exercises
  • Kinesiotaping
  • Yoga and breath-work


Why Physical Therapy vs. Occupational Therapy?

Both are important, and in the pediatric clinic setting, sometimes they look as if they are working on the same things. However, depending on the type of problem, Physical Therapy may be more appropriate.

Simply put, OTs help kids improve the quality of their participation in daily functional activities.

Working from more of a mobility framework, PTs help children achieve independence in gross motor skills – large movements like crawling, walking, jumping and running – while also helping a child build strength, endurance and balance. Completed through a play-based session, tasks frequently include anything that may impact a child’s quality of movement, posture, alignment and safety – often involving helping a child try something difficult in a safe environment.