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Should your child see a physiotherapist?


What is paediatric physiotherapy?

Physiotherapy involves maximising function by improving movement, coordination and posture. A baby’s or child’s body functions differently to an adult’s, which is why it’s important to seek treatment and advice from the right place when concerns arise.

A paediatric physiotherapist specialises in treating children, from babies through to adolescents. Paediatric physiotherapy involves optimising baby and child development to give them the best start in life. Movement is linked not only to physical development, but also to cognitive, social and emotional development. So, to extend your child’s potential in all areas of their life, it is important to ensure they are able to move as freely as possible.

Why would my child need to see a paediatric physiotherapist?

There are many reasons why a baby or child may require physiotherapy, including:

  • Prematurity

  • Developmental delay

  • Neurological conditions

  • Neuromuscular disorders

  • Cerebral palsy

  • Syndromes

  • Acquired brain injuries

  • Muscle imbalances

  • Developmental coordination disorders

  • Atypical walking patterns (including toe-walking)

  • Abnormal head shape (Plagiocephaly)

  • Postural defects of the foot/ankle (Talipes)

  • Brachial plexus injuries

Babies who are born prematurely have been shown to have a different motor trajectory to babies born at term. These babies are prone to developing atypical motor patterns, which can be corrected or minimised with physiotherapy.

An increased number of babies are presenting with flattened or misshapen heads (plagiocephaly) and a preference to look to one side. A physiotherapist can help correct muscle imbalances in the neck and give you strategies to improve your child’s head shape.

Children with neurological conditions often find ways to compensate for the movements they find difficult, which can have long-term implications on their ability to move fluidly. It is important that these children are monitored by a physiotherapist to ensure emerging movement patterns are appropriate.

Some babies and children have difficulties learning new skills. Once taught the right way to move, they are then able to continue developing at their own rate.

Quite often, children with coordination difficulties are labelled as clumsy or lazy, which is not always correct. It is important that these children are appropriately assessed to gain an accurate understanding of why they may find some activities difficult or may withdraw from physical activity. It is important to give these children the confidence they need to attempt new tasks.

For all children, a thorough understanding of why they move the way they do will help give parents the skills they need to support their child’s physical development.

What signs should I be looking for?

Babies and children move for enjoyment and learn through movement, so when a child does not appear to want to move or there seems to be something unnatural about their movement, it is important to ask ‘why?’

While all children develop at their own rate, it is important to be aware of the potential signs of delayed development. These are:

  • 6-months old

  • Not holding head up when placed on tummy

  • Not controlling head when held in sitting position

  • 9-months old

  • Not rolling in both directions

  • Not sitting on their own

  • Not showing an interest in moving around the floor

  • 12-months old

  • Not crawling around the floor

  • Not pulling to stand at a support

  • 18-months old

  • Not standing on their own or attempting to walk

  • 2-years old

  • Not walking independently

  • 3-years old

  • Not running and jumping

  • Not walking up and down stairs

  • 4-years old

  • Not confidently climbing and navigating playground equipment

  • 5-years old

  • Not able to stand on one leg for a few seconds

  • Not hopping on one leg

Other signs to look out for include:

  • Asymmetry in their movement (favouring one side of the body over the other)

  • Movements that appear clumsy

  • Poor posture

  • Reluctance to move or participate in sports and gross motor activities

Often problems can arise that caregiver’s have no way to predict or control. It is important not to feel guilty but to seek advice if you are unsure or have any concerns.

What would a physiotherapy session look like for my child?

Every session is tailored to your child’s specific needs. This is based on the child’s history, as well as a thorough physical assessment. Following this assessment, results are discussed with parents and a plan is made in consultation with the family. This may include a report, a home program or individual therapy sessions. Sessions are designed to be fun and engaging. Your child should not experience pain during assessment or treatment.

Overall, it is important we understand why and how children move in order to foster a love of physical activity and to ensure progression of gross motor skills throughout their childhood.

If you have any concerns regarding your child’s movement or development, or for more information, please contact us on 07 3886 9470 (Narangba).


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Feature Magazine

PO Box 105, Narangba Qld 4504

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