Pediatric physiotherapy is effective in the management of perinatal conditions, conditions diagnosed in early childhood, and injuries sustained throughout childhood and the transition to adult care. Pediatric physiotherapy improves physical function and quality of life.1,2 Its long-term benefits are significant and include reducing disability and the need for surgery or other more costly invasive interventions resulting in a decreased burden on the future use of health care services.
Pediatric physiotherapy services treat a wide variety of acute and chronic conditions in different settings, from acute care hospitals to the community and schools. Pediatric physiotherapists assess, diagnose and treat neurological, developmental, cardiorespiratory, and orthopedic conditions in children up to 18 years of age, with a focus on improving function and increasing independence. Physiotherapy has a positive and significant impact on pulmonary function, motor control, muscle strength, and physical endurance in pediatric patients with chronic conditions such as cerebral palsy, cystic fibrosis, and juvenile idiopathic arthritis.
HOW DOES IT WORK?
Pediatric physiotherapists help children to achieve optimal physical development. They have specialist knowledge in the movement, development, and conditions that are likely to affect the baby and growing child and treat from 1-day-old babies to adolescents. Treatment may involve soft tissue massage, mobilization, stretching, specific therapeutic exercises, and posture education. Because Children are not small adults these therapists encourage children to move to the best of their abilities through play and age-appropriate fun and instruction. The physiotherapist will inevitably work within the context of the child and his family and have the opportunity to work with the child in a range of situations extending into the home, preschool groups, education, and leisure activities.
Because of the complex needs of the child and the family, the physiotherapist may work with many other disciplines including medicine, nursing, social work, educational and care staff, psychological and psychiatric teams as well as speech and occupational therapists. The physiotherapist working in such teams must be able to communicate his/her observations, assessments, and treatment plans to the child, his parents, and other members of the team. To work effectively and efficiently the pediatric physiotherapist must in addition to his physiotherapy skills, have a clear understanding of the development process of childhood, primitive reflex patterns, and pediatric illness and disability.
WHAT COMMON CONDITIONS ARE TREATED IN PEDIATRIC PHYSIOTHERAPY?
A pediatric physiotherapist can provide specialized physiotherapy treatment for children aged between 0 and 18 years that have difficulty with their physical development as a result of neurological and/or developmental problems. Neurological conditions can be a result of problems with the brain, spinal cord, or peripheral nerves. Babies and/or children with neurological conditions may have difficulties with their physical functions including mobility, muscle strength, range of movement, and balance.
Pediatric physiotherapists have extensive experience in a variety of neurological pediatric conditions including:
Initial assessment of your child will include their development, movement, strength, and balance in order to produce a structured treatment program which may include:
Re-educating normal movement patterns
Improving standing and quality of walking
Advice and support for parents and or teachers
Working on fine and gross motor skills
WHO CAN BENEFIT FROM PEDIATRIC PHYSIOTHERAPY?
Pediatric physiotherapists have expert skills in the assessment, identification, diagnosis of, and treatment of child development and movement difficulties. Pediatric physiotherapists have highly developed hands-on skills, which we use with a big dash of fun, creativity, and playfulness, to develop individualized therapy programs for each of our clients. The treatment programs are aimed to optimize the health, well-being, and abilities of each child to enable them to move and participate in everyday activities, like playing, learning, going to school, and being part of a family and community. Children with developmental problems may have difficulty reaching his/her developmental milestones by a time or age that is expected. Developmental milestones are tasks most children learn or develop that commonly appear in certain age ranges. For example, head control, rolling, crawling, walking, and talking. Physiotherapy treatment for children with neurological or developmental problems will help to maximize their potential and promote physical development to reach specific milestones (e.g. rolling, crawling, and walking).
The types of movement disorders or movement difficulties Pediatric physiotherapists can help with vary greatly, but can include:
Babies and children who are slower to achieve their motor milestones, e.g; babies who are late to learn to sit, crawl or walk
Babies and children who are using unusual patterns to move eg: w-sitting or bottom shuffling or toe walking
Children who are having difficulty with motor skills, such as jumping/hopping or ball skills
Toddlers and babies who are clumsy or uncoordinated
Children following an injury or trauma who require rehabilitation to get back to their best
Children with rumination
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