When you think of the words ‘physical therapist’ you likely think of a person who helps an athlete recover from injury or an adult regaining strength after a stroke, accident or other incident. BUT, there are physical therapists who specialize in treating children! Some children/adolescents do seek physical therapy for strengthening or post injury. Some children may benefit from a physical therapist’s help to reach developmental milestones. Developmental milestones are tasks that children learn as they grow. Typically, babies reach these milestones naturally as they grow and mature. Sometimes, milestones do not come as naturally to a child. A parent may notice their baby has poor head control, isn’t grasping for toys, learning to roll or starting to sit independently when they should. A physical therapist can work hands-on with the child and also with the parent to teach them how to work with their baby on a daily basis to reach new goals.
Some babies have delayed milestones with no underlying medical conditions. Other times, a baby may have a diagnosis such as torticollis, premature birth, Down Syndrome, cerebral palsy, a chromosomal anomaly or other medical conditions. Physical therapists are well educated in development and movement. These are common questions we see from parents:
- “My child was born on time and does not have any medical complications but things just seem harder, what should I do?” As a parent, you are the expert on your child (whether you feel that way or not!). If your baby is struggling, we want to help. A baby’s brain in a sponge. Changes can usually begin to be seen in a few short sessions. Talk to your pediatrician about your concerns and request a referral for a physical therapy evaluation. Team 4 Kids is also able to offer a complimentary screening for your child and let you know if an evaluation is recommended.
- “My child was a preemie and/or has a medical diagnosis, should I wait until they should be sitting or crawling but can’t?” NO, don’t wait! Neuroplasticity is a fancy term for the brain’s ability to change and make new connections over time. An infant’s brain is amazing! Even a brain with visible damage on an MRI can learn to make new pathways and a young brain is able to ‘rewire’ at a much faster rate than even a kindergartener. Don’t wait for your infant to hit 6 months old and not be able to sit with his/hands propping or for them to reach 10 months and not be able to crawl hands and knees. Each milestone leads to the next and is important for overall development. Movement often guides communication and early delays can snowball and effect the bigger picture of development.
- “My child has torticollis and prefers to only look one direction but they will be getting a reshaping helmet, that will ‘fix’ things, right?” Yes and no– a helmet can help correct the shape of your child’s head (plagiocephaly); however, there will likely still be an imbalance of neck muscle use which will then affect movement and may lead to neglect of one side or patterns which then prevent typical rolling or crawling. These are best addressed early, at even a few weeks of age, vs waiting until a child is 9 months or older and now has preferences and compensations which must be corrected.
Call us today at Team 4 Kids to schedule your baby’s evaluation; we love to be a part of the tears of joy when your baby learns new things and you see progress happen in front of you!
Amber Oswald, PT