What to Look for in a Pediatric Physical Therapist

There are several reasons why a child may need pediatric physical therapy. It can be due to a developmental delay, an orthopedic condition like scoliosis or recovery from a broken bone, or due to a congenital condition such as Down syndrome, spina bifida or cerebral palsy.  

A pediatric physical therapist is specifically trained to work with children and families to provide services specific to each child’s needs that improve motor skills, range of motion, balance and coordination and other skills. The goal is to help each child improve their quality of life and ease the challenges of daily caregiving.

Once you’ve determined with your doctor that physical therapy is a good treatment option for your child, the work to find the right pediatric physical therapist begins. Moving forward with a physical therapist within your medical provider group is a possibility, but, there are different therapy options available. Investigate your choices before you decide by considering the following:  

Basic physical therapy principles are applied.

Pediatric physical therapy can be a bit tricky. It isn’t as simple as giving the patient a set of exercises and asking them to execute. In most cases that strategy won’t work on a giggly, wiggly kiddo. A good pediatric physical therapist will know how to apply basic physical therapy principles through play-based activities that will keep your child engaged and working without really knowing it.

In order to do this effectively, the therapist will need a small arsenal of options and be able to think and adjust on the fly as the attitude and temperament of a child can change quickly.

You receive a treatment plan you can understand.

For any therapy to be effective, a treatment plan needs to be developed. The details of the plan will vary from child to child, but fundamentally, the plan should identify goals for your child that you and the physical therapist have determined together and that you have a clear understanding of before moving ahead. The plan should also grow with your child’s progress and be reevaluated as needed to decide if new goals should be developed or if your child has accomplished what they set out to complete.

It’s important to note that physical therapy doesn’t only take place in a clinic setting. While the appointment with the physical therapist is part of your child’s success, how your child continues with exercises and strategies outside of a clinic setting is just as important. Be sure that part of the treatment plan includes tips and exercises you can help your child complete at home, as well as what you should be looking for the exercise to accomplish. Being able to share what you’ve worked on and how your child responded when you meet up at your next appointment can help your therapist determine progress and what to continue working on in the clinic.

Take a tour of a physical therapy clinic.

Part of your research in finding the right physical therapist should include looking at the space in which they work and deciding if it’s an environment that will best suit your child’s needs and personality. Most clinics are willing to provide a tour and answer questions about how therapy appointments typically work, so feel free to call or request a tour. While you’re there, ask to meet at therapist, or request to meet one through video meeting. Sometimes asking questions directly to a therapist can help in your decision making while establishing a personal connection with the therapist.  

In addition, you’ll want to ask a clinic about insurance and how claims are submitted.

When it comes to finding the right pediatric physical therapist for your child, leave no stone unturned. There are more options available to parents than ever before, so taking the time to research your options can make all of the difference and give you piece of mind you’ve made the right choice for your child.

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