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What is Paediatric Physiotherapy

05.09.2022 | 12:25 pm

A very commonly asked question that a paediatric physiotherapist may get asked is “why do children need physiotherapy?”

Physiotherapy involves assessing, diagnosing and managing difficulties with movement and function. Movement is an integral part in a child’s development. Movement enables a child to explore parts of his own body as well as the environment. Children are not just mini sized adults. They move differently, develop differently and think differently. Their bones and muscles are constantly growing and changing as is their cognitive development. Children learn through play and play is their primary occupation. Therefore, the way we approach a child in physical therapy and their management differs from adults and hence it is beneficial to visit a specialised paediatric physiotherapist for mobility and development related concerns in a baby, growing child or teenager upto young adulthood. Physiotherapists practising in paediatrics have experience and sound knowledge and understanding of child development and how growing structures in their bodies can have an impact on the other systems in their bodies. The age range covered is right from birth up until 18 years of age. Paediatric Physiotherapy can be provided across various environments such as hospital neonatal ICUs and inpatient settings, outpatient and community health clinics, at schools or in their homes. Paediatric physiotherapy utilises a variety of specialised techniques to treat a wide range of musculoskeletal, neurological, cardiovascular or developmental conditions. These are based on principles of child development, motor control and functional movements where the skills that a child learns in therapy can be carried over into their daily tasks.

What does a paediatric physiotherapist do?

A paediatric physiotherapist will take a detailed history of your child’s condition and understand what your concerns are regarding your child’s development. They will then observe your child and play with your child to understand how they move and how they engage in play. They will identify key areas of difficulty mostly in relation to how they are moving. They will then carry out standardised tests or functional tests as needed to identify any muscle tightness, muscle weakness, coordination and balance issues or developmental delays, or any other factors that are limiting a child’s mobility.

The therapist will then formulate a therapy plan which would include therapy sessions as well as education and training for families and school staff on how they can support the child in school and at home. Therapy sessions consist of fun, play based training targeting weaker muscle groups and working on goals that can then be carried over to their daily tasks that they are finding difficulty with. They will also help in the prescription of any supportive orthotics, braces or equipment that a child may require. Therapy programs and interventions constantly change as the child is growing to accommodate their needs at that particular time. Therapy for children is meant to be fun and interactive with games and activities, as children learn through play.

The types of conditions that paediatric physiotherapists work with are very varied but not limited to-

  • A child who is having difficulties attaining their developmental milestones such as sitting, crawling, standing or walking
  • A child who requires help with their higher gross motor skills such as jumping, hopping, skipping and climbing.
  • Some babies may develop some birth related injuries such as their neck being tilted to one side due to tight neck muscles, or injury to a nerve during the birthing process and a paeds physio can help with these. Older babies may also present with flatness on one or both sides of their heads due to being positioned in a certain way for a prolonged time. A paediatric physio can educate and guide families on how to help resolve this
  • Children who appear to be clumsy, uncoordinated, falling often or just generally having a hard time planning and sequencing movements, a paediatric physiotherapy can help identify the underlying problem and help the child
  • Children who have a diagnosis of a neurological condition such as cerebral palsy, autism, downs syndrome, congenital or genetic syndromes, neuromuscular disease such as duchenne muscular dystrophy or bethlems muscular dystrophy, brain injuries
  • Children who have any musculoskeletal conditions such as flat feet, club feet, hypermobility of their joints, any pain related to bones, joints or muscles as seen in certain conditions.
  • Children who move in a pattern that is not common and can affect their further gross motor development, such as prolonged toe walking, walking with legs falling excessively outwards or inwards, bottom shuffling, w-sitting amongst others.
  • Children with cardiac or respiratory conditions that can have an impact on their overall muscle strength, endurance and well being as well as their participation in school and other activities
  • A child who has had a bone or muscle injury and is in the postoperative or recovery phase

Physiotherapy at Neuropedia Children’s Neuroscience Centre

At Neuropedia, we believe in a true multidisciplinary approach to a child’s care. Children do not practice for eg physiotherapy, speech and language therapy and occupational therapy separately in the community. They in fact need to transfer and combine all the skills learnt in therapy into functional tasks to aid with their daily movement, activity and participation. Therefore working within a strong multidisciplinary team ensures that the child is learning and progressing in the best way possible. This is done through regularly setting and reviewing short term and long term goal for a child, team meetings and discussions, and involving families and caregivers in a child’s care throughout the process. We make therapy fun and enjoyable for the child where children feel they are playing games and having fun, and in the process learning important skills. We understand that some children take time to settle into the process and a happy and engaged child yields the best results and this is what we strive for in every session.