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What is Physical Therapy for Kids?

Pediatric physical therapists (PTs) work with children and their families to promote independence and participation in daily activities. PTs have expertise in movement, motor development, and body function. They help kids move their bodies to the best of their abilities. Pediatric PTs work with kids to improve gross motor tasks, movements that involve large muscle groups. As primary health care providers, PTs also promote health and wellness as they implement a wide variety of supports in collaboration with families, communities, and other medical, educational, developmental, and rehabilitation specialists.

Examples of the Tasks and Skills Physical Therapy May Improve for Your Child

  • Sitting in a chair for mealtime with improved posture and endurance
  • Navigating the playground with improved strength, coordination and balance
  • Climbing on and off the couch independently for family movie night
  • Walking with an assistive device with increased confidence
  • Riding a bicycle on a family outing with improved coordination and balance
  • Assisting caregivers with transfers between equipment with improved strength and flexibility

Supporting children and families begins with a conversation to identify the child’s needs and family’s concerns and continues with an examination and evaluation of the child in the context of their daily routines and activities.

What Will My Child Do in a physical therapy session. 

 During an initial evaluation, the Physical Therapist will review your family’s concerns, your child’s strengths and interests, as well as your child’s developmental and medical history. The PT will use testing and observation of developmentally appropriate tasks to assess your child’s strength, balance, and flexibility. From there, the PT will work with you and your child to create a customized treatment plan and home exercise program to address meaningful goals. 

Ongoing PT sessions consist of play-based activities and exercises to target specific areas of need. For example, if your child has difficulty kicking a ball we would likely also be addressing core strength, single leg balance, and coordination to support and generalize that skill.  

 What role does the family play?

Parents and families have the primary role in their child’s development. The pediatric PT collaborates with the family to promote development and implement an individualized intervention program. Family support can include:

  • Positioning during daily routines and activities
  • Adapting toys for play
  • Expanding mobility options
  • Using equipment effectively
  • Facilitating safety for the home and community
  • Accessing community programs and resources
  • Smoothing transitions from early childhood to school and into adult life

Academy of Pediatric Physical Therapy Fact Sheet  – Printable PDF Document (Opens in a new Window)

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Kids Physical Therapy