Physical Therapy services are designed to promote strong gross motor and balance skills.
Therapists, specialized in pediatric therapy, work with families to assist their children in sitting,
crawling, walking, running and jumping, as needed.
A Physical Therapist (PT) helps children with physical, developmental or neurological disabilities,
musculoskeletal problems or cardiopulmonary diagnoses. Their main emphasis is on impairments of
movement that leads to functional limitations.
Physical therapists who treat infants and toddlers are specialists trained to treat movement and
functional dysfunctions. A primary role by the physical therapist includes enhancing the stimuli and
cognitive skills normally provided to the child by play and exploration. This includes assisting the child
into several positions and several movements. All with the goal of enhancing the child's
developmental skills, processing and overall learning. Physical therapy may play a critical part in the
child's achievement of functional independence and integration into the school system.
A physical therapist will perform the gross motor examination to assist in determining the
developmental age and abilities of the child. From this information the therapist will determine
functional goals such as rolling or sitting independently, developmental skills, improved motor control
and planning, and improving quality of life. Also, they participate in deciding on assisting devices for
the child, educating families on handling and positioning of the child, and teaching the child functional
movement, stability, and skills as well as providing important sensory input to the child's compromised
To further demonstrate the necessity of physical therapy's role in early intervention a task force was
developed by the APTA in 1990. The Task Force on Early Intervention described early intervention
as having its foundation based on the following premises:
1. The first years, represented by rapid growth and development, are the foundation for later
2. Infants have the ability to actively participate, learn, and form attachments.
3. Parents have the primary role in nurturing and in providing early learning experiences and may
require assistance or instruction to effectively care for a special needs child.
4. Developmental outcome is determined by the interaction between biological disorder and
Services Provided In Physical Therapy
1. Passive or active exercise to maintain or increase range of motion.
2. Active or resistive exercise to increase muscle strength; may use manual resistance, free
3. Training in functional skills such as bed mobility and transfers.
4. Developmental therapy designed to facilitate progress toward gross motor milestones with
optimal movement quality.
5. Fabrication and use of orthotics or casts for positioning or functional activity
6. Preparation and training in the use of prosthetics
7. Modalities such as heat, cold, electric current or whirlpool to decrease pain, improve flexibility,
control pain o promote healing.
8. Aquatic therapy for increasing flexibility and strength, decreasing pain and ambulating in a
partial weight-bearing environment.
9. Aerobic exercises to improve cardiovascular endurance.
10. Breathing exercises to improve use of respiratory muscles
Structured programming can improve the abilities of infants and children and their families.
With this in mind the role of which physical therapy plays in early intervention is based on the
• neural plasticity exists
• infants and toddlers are sensorimotor learners
• motor skills knowledge is a major component of early development
• intervention must be provided early to ensure optimal outcome and prevent the development
of secondary disability
• maximum intervention is provided by family-centered services
Physical therapy will help your child to enhance their independence, physical and emotional well-
being. These qualities are the precursors for many school and home skills.