Pediatric Physical Therapy

Pediatric Physical Therapy

Pediatric physical therapy is the branch of medicine that deals with providing rehabilitative therapy for children. Patients make use of this kind of therapy because they have suffered an injury, or disability resulting from surgery or a congenital illness.

There are many different types of pediatric therapy programs, most of which are focused on neurological functioning, muscle strength, posture, motor control, and the range of motion in joints.
They may also cater to patients who suffer from other developmental delays as well as those who have congenital and non-congenital conditions. In a nutshell, their work helps to restore basic bodily functions, help patients prevent permanent disabilities, and relieve their pain after injury or illness.

Pediatric Physical Therapy Work Overview

The scope of work of one trained in pediatric physical therapy revolves around helping young patients recover from various physical ailments and conditions. It deals with providing treatment and alternative options to families of children to help them restore cognitive skills, gross motor skills, endurance, balance, strength, and coordination.

An important part of work is communication with parents and educating them about the condition of their child and the various treatments as well as any side effects they may bring along.

In pediatric physical therapy, the work is also defined by a close relationship with other healthcare providers such as other physicians, specialists, and community workers who strive to help their patients back to their highest functioning abilities through various physical therapy methods.


Pediatric Physical Therapy

Both quantitative and qualitative measures are used in pediatric physical therapy to determine a child’s need for specific types of therapy. Some methods used include observation in their natural settings, acquiring data from personal and family history, information from teachers, caregivers, and family members. A systems review is also conducted, which involves an assessment of a child’s respiratory, cardiovascular, muscoskeletal, integumentary, and neuromuscular systems.

Pediatric physical therapy also takes into account a child’s active and passive ranges of motion, reactions, equilibrium, and persistent abnormal reflexes which may be present. A child’s posture and gait are observed, because they provide crucial clues into the types of exercises, seating, orthotics and other rehabilitative tools which will be effective in restoring the child to maximum health.

Standardized tests are also used to assess functional motor ability, such as the Peabody Developmental Motor Scales, Movement Assessment of Infants, Alberta Infant Motor Scales, and others. These types of tests are designed to test the equilibrium or balance in children and infants.


Once the examination findings have been presented, another role of pediatric physical therapy is the creation of a prognosis. This would include the care plan, treatment options, frequency of treatment, and outlining of short term and long term treatment goals.


Intervention and communication is an important aspect of the responsibilities of those in pediatric physical therapy. Interaction in educational settings may be recommended to gain more information about a child’s progress for learning and in the classroom.

Coordination and the physical management of documents are also part of the work in pediatric physical therapy, as well as treatment procedures, and education of the child’s family.

Training in the pediatric field will allow doctors to make recommendations in referring the child to see another type of physician who can help provide them with supplementary care. It can help in the fitting of equipment such as wheelchairs, walking aids, and others. It also deals with choosing the right adaptive equipment for use at home and in the classroom such as the seating devices, standing frames, and orthoses.


Treatment for pediatric physical therapy falls under different categories, which include:

  • therapeutic exercise
  • functional training for daily activities
  • therapeutic modalities
  • manual techniques to aid in stretching and mobilization

Treatment usually takes place within a specified rehabilitation setting together with a classroom setting. Therapy sessions last anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour and may occur once or twice a day (or per week) depending on the progress of the child and severity of the condition.

The responsibilities of a pediatric physical therapy practitioner continue long after treatment has been conducted in order to monitor the child’s abilities and adjust treatment as needed. Various tests will be conducted to evaluate the redirection, modification, or discontinuing of treatment. They may also make suggestions to the child’s teachers regarding what programs they may or may not participate in at school or exercises they should do at home which will help expedite healing.

How to become a pediatric physical therapy practitioner

Those who are interested to become a professional in pediatric physical therapy should complete a master’s degree in a physical therapy program which is accredited by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education. They must also pass state requirements and the proper licensure and certification exams which is crucial in being able to work professionally in the state they desire to work in. It’s always helpful to read about state laws because some states require that physical therapists must continue education credits in order to maintain a license to practice.

Most accredited programs in physical therapy grant students with a Doctorate of Physical Therapy Degree which generally takes three years to achieve after one has completed a bachelor’s degree. This program allows one year residencies where aspiring practitioners choose their specialty by learning more about children’s physical therapy.

Aspiring practitioners take this residency program which is available at numerous medical universities across the country. It will complete the education required to become a pediatric physical therapy practitioner.

Once the residency program has been completed, one needs to take the licensure exam which is administered by the licensing board of each state.

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