The Role of Pediatric Physical Therapists


People of all ages benefit from the professional services physical therapists provide. Whether it’s a senior maintaining mobility or just someone recovering from a major injury or illness, physical therapy has wide reaching benefits. However, children are one demographic with very specific needs when it comes to these services. The role of pediatric physical therapists is absolutely integral to a child and their family’s wellbeing and happiness in many cases. Here we’ll discuss just how physical therapy adapts to suit pediatric patients for top results!

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the role of pediatric physical therapists

Understanding the Role of Pediatric Physical Therapists

While many professionals help adults recover or maintain their health, the role of pediatric physical therapists involves unique challenges. Considering that young children don’t always fully understand their health needs, pediatric PTs often need to adapt accordingly. Like all physical therapists, their goal centers on helping a child function independently and participate at home, in school, and in their community. Professionals in this field care for patients as old as 18 years of age or as young as newborn infants.

What conditions do Pediatric Physical Therapists Treat?

Pediatric PTs treat patients with a range of disorders and diseases that cause movement dysfunction or motor skill issues. Providing physical therapy early in one’s life is extremely important to allow children to build the skills and confidence they need as adults. Most commonly, pediatric PTs see patients with challenges due to:

  • Cerebral Palsy
  • Autism
  • Down Syndrome
  • Muscular Dystrophy
  • Spina Bifida
  • Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis
  • Arthrogryposis
  • Cardio-Pulmonary Disorders
  • Cystic Fibrosis
  • Cancer
  • Traumatic Brain Injuries
  • Scoliosis

At times, children may present with hypotonia and other developmental coordination disorders lacking a formal diagnosis. The role of pediatric physical therapists involves treating each unique patient through an individualized approach. Mainly this involves treating delays in motor skills development in addition to focusing on strength and range of motion therapies. Children need to move through their environment as easily and effectively as possible, especially at school.

Just like with adult patients, pediatric physical therapists assess individuals on factors like flexibility, strength, posture, gait, sensory processing, balance, and coordination. The major difference is that these aspects are compared against age-based developmental stages.

the role of pediatric physical therapists

How are Pediatric PTs Different?

As mentioned, many young children don’t understand why they are in therapy. This means the role of pediatric physical therapists involves more play, family involvement, and motivational factors that make treatment enjoyable for children. Some young patients understandably resist receiving treatment, and so pediatric PTs often need quite a bit of patience themselves! That said, the ability to help a child gain independence and work through a difficult condition makes this easily one of the most rewarding fields in allied health.

Pediatric PTs also have the opportunity to collaborate with other care professionals in fields like orthotics, prosthetics, adaptive equipment and other mobility technologies. Additionally, individuals in this field also work to coordinate family support services, advocacy and general assistance in helping their child to progress. One of the main goals is to get each aspect of a child’s social and family support system functioning as one. Although PTs can provide lots of great treatment during each session, it’s important that parents and caregivers can pick up where they left off.

Where do Pediatric PTs Work?

Pediatric physical therapists work in a range of locations. Mainly, they practice in hospitals, outpatient clinics, schools, and day care centers. Otherwise, these PTs often find themselves in Early Intervention Programs and home-care settings. The added ability to travel provides even more opportunities for physical therapists treating children, especially those in rural or underserved areas.

Do you have experience as a pediatric physical therapist? Let us know your thoughts with a comment below!

Author: Allied Travel Careers

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