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How can Physical Therapy Help Your Child?

By Fraser Physical Therapists Katie Harguth, Kim Peterson, and Sam Paripovich • Physical therapy, PT, PT for kids, Fraser Physical Therapy, physical therapy for kids, physical therapy for children, physical therapy skills, building strength for kids, motor coordination, low muscle tone • July 15, 2021

Most people probably think of physical therapy as a way to recover from an injury or surgery. But physical therapy can also be an important tool to help children struggling with their physical development.

Children with autism or children who have intellectual disabilities often have physical differences that occur simultaneously. They may have low muscle tone or difficulty with motor coordination. Physical therapy can help restore and improve mobility and strength for your child and help prevent or limit physical disabilities.

How do you know if physical therapy is right for your child?

“If your child can’t keep up with their peers during play, like on the playground or when they’re playing together inside, you might want to consider physical therapy for your child,” says Fraser Physical Therapist Katie Harguth.

Some other reasons you might want to pursue physical therapy for your child:

  • Difficulty walking that leads to frequent trips and falls
  • Can’t climb the stairs by themselves
  • Trouble getting in and out of the car or onto the bed
  • Difficulty sitting up on their own, tends to lean on something for support
  • Always sitting with their legs behind them
  • Can’t stand still because they need to lean on something for support

Fraser Physical Therapy serves children from 6 months to age 18. Adolescents and teens might need help developing recreation skills like bike riding, catching and throwing, climbing and participating in other sports activities.

What skills can they gain?

During physical therapy, children can work on balance, strength, coordination and flexibility. Physical therapists can also help improve their mobility, so children are able to walk, run and climb stairs. They might also work on gross motor skills — or activities that involve a child’s whole body — like jumping, skipping, climbing and bike riding. Therapists also prioritize what your child wants to achieve.

“We ask what is a priority for them. Like if a child says, ‘I always have to take a break when I’m playing with friends, and it’s really frustrating.’ Then we’ll work on building up their strength, so they can play with their friends longer,” says Fraser Physical Therapist Sam Paripovich.

Physical therapists can also help parents or caregivers get equipment children might need, like walkers, gait trainers or other assistive equipment.

How can you reach out if you think your child needs physical therapy?

Fraser offers physical therapy evaluations, where you meet with a physical therapist to determine if your child would benefit from physical therapy services. If your child is already receiving occupational therapy, speech therapy or mental health services, talk to your therapist about your concerns, and they can reach out to a physical therapist. You can also consult your pediatrician.

How can physical therapy help children be successful?

Fraser Physical Therapist Kim Peterson says seeing children participating in activities with their peers or family is what physical therapists consider the biggest success.

“After physical therapy, I’ve seen kids who can now ride their bikes with their family or go for hikes,” says Peterson. “And they can navigate these activities in safe ways, without tripping or falling. It gives these children much more independence.”

Peterson also points out that giving children more independence also allows parents more independence. Parents or caregivers don’t have to provide as much assistance to children. Families might be able to explore new opportunities together, like attending the state fair or going to the park.

Physical therapists also create a plan to help your child maintain a healthy activity level after they leave therapy.

“We help them find activities they enjoy, that get their bodies moving and keep them moving, so they will continue to stay active,” says Paripovich.