Why do kids need physiotherapy?  What do you do?

When I tell people I am a paediatric physiotherapist, or a physiotherapist who works with babies and children, people frequently respond with “Um, ok. What do kids need to see a physio for?”.

Most people generally have an idea what physio’s might do for adults – help people with movement difficulties.  This might include helping people following injuries such as hamstring strains, rolled ankles; helping people who have painful knees, shoulders, backs, necks; and helping people to learn to move again following surgery or a neurological injury such as a stroke or a brain injury.  But not many people know what a physio might do for a baby or child.

Children are not just mini-adults – they are built differently, move differently and think differently.  As a result, babies and children will benefit from seeing a physiotherapist who is trained and experienced in paediatrics.  Paediatric physiotherapists are experts in child development, particularly in relation to the development of movement. Movement is a very important aspect of development for babies and children.  Movement allows babies and children to explore their bodies and how they work, as well as their environment and all the things in their world – being able to move easily and successfully is essential for learning and growing.

Paediatric physiotherapists have expert skills in the assessment, identification and diagnosis of, and treatment of child development and movement difficulties.   We have highly developed hands on skills, which we use with a big dash of fun, creativity and playfulness, to develop individualised therapy programs for each of our clients.  We collaborate with the child, the child’s family, other health professionals and teachers or educators.  Our treatment programs aim to optimise 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.

The types of movement disorders or movement difficulties paediatric physiotherapists can help with vary greatly, but can include:

  • Babies and children who are slower to achieve their motor milestones, eg: 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 with disabilities such as cerebral palsy, Down Syndrome, autism, brain injury, muscular dystrophies, or other congenital syndromes or conditions
  • Babies and children with conditions affecting their bones, joints or muscles, such as Plagiocephaly (flattened head shape), clubfoot, flat feet, overly flexible or dislocating joints, or congenital conditions such as Ehler’s Danlos Syndrome, common musculoskeletal issues (eg: Sever’s Disease, patellofemoral pain
  • Children who have rheumatological and pain conditions such as arthritis, myositis, or chronic pain
  • Children following an injury or trauma who require rehabilitation to get back to their best
  • Children with rumination
  • Children with chronic respiratory conditions such as cystic fibrosis, bronchiectasis or primary ciliary dyskinesia

When you bring your child to one of our paediatric physiotherapists, you can expect a longer appointment duration than other practices because we want to make sure your child receives a thorough assessment, because all aspects of a child’s development are interlinked.  We also realise that some children take some time to ‘warm up’, and don’t want to rush your child if they take a little time to warm up – we will get a better idea of your child’s abilities and needs if they are happy and engaged, rather than anxious or upset.

During your child’s physiotherapy appointment we will:

  • assess your child’s motor and overall development, using our observation skills, special measures, and specific hands on assessment techniques
  • identify what your child is doing well, what they are having difficulty with, and why they are having difficulties, and then
  • develop a treatment program in collaboration with you and your child, which aims to address your child’s difficulties and maximise their abilities

Your child’s treatment may include direct hands on physiotherapy, education about your child’s condition and how they can improve, providing activities or exercises to do at home or school that will help your child’s progress, trial and prescription of specialised orthotics, splints or equipment to support your child’s development, and referral to and/or liaison with other health professionals and support providers.

Research has shown that early intervention can improve outcomes for children with developmental difficulties.  If you have concerns about your baby’s or child’s development, call to make an appointment to see one of our experienced paediatric physiotherapists.  A doctor’s referral is not required – treatment of your child’s condition can start immediately, we do not have to wait for a diagnosis or a doctors review.