Why a specialized pediatric program is important when a child needs therapy.
Tessah Skoog, PT,DPT
Doctor of Physical Therapy
Beginning in January 2018, Exercisabilities now offers a pediatric program to meet the needs of the children in our community. This new program creates a continuum of care from infant to adulthood in one location. Your child can grow with their therapy program instead of growing out of it. With a team just for kids, we now provide speech, occupational and physical therapy. We your child to be as independent as possible!
Similar Goals, Different Paths
Treatment for our pediatric program is not significantly different than that of our adult population. However, there are many things to consider when treating a pediatric client:
- What are their strengths and weaknesses?
- What are the parents’ goals for their children?
- How can we get a child to actively participate in “play” that is therapeutic and purposeful?
- What if a child won’t do what I want them to? Can I alter each activity to make it skilled and appropriate?
With the adult population, it is easier to make a plan at the beginning of your session and follow it straight through. For example, you might have an adult who has a diagnosis of post stroke. The session will focus on stretching, cardiovascular training, functional activities with sit to stands, reaching or gait training. At the beginning of the session, the client is educated on how the course of the session is likely to go, they agree, and the session is over before you know it.
Pediatric Program Takes Creativity and Passion
With the pediatric population, we need a different approach. There needs to be a variety of activities planned for therapeutic play and the child often does not cooperate the entire time. It takes creativity, energy and passion to treat a pediatric client. With ages ranging from 0-18 (and sometimes older) the pediatric population can provide challenges with how to facilitate functional activities. If you want to get a child to roll, how can you activate the appropriate muscles on the floor, on a stability ball? Use of a variety or resources is needed. It takes more than just telling the child to roll; it involves play, demonstration, and clapping when the activity is completed appropriately.
Consider a child that needs to strengthen their calves. You want them to reach over head and go on to their tippy toes. Well, you need a mirror, a shelf or something for them to reach for. It then becomes an activity that they don’t even realize they are doing! They are on their toes reaching for their favorite toy above them because they want it so bad! A pediatric session waxes and wanes, it’s a rollercoaster. You don’t spend 15 minutes on one activity, you’re lucky to get 5 minutes!
Team of Therapists
It also takes a team. The needs a developing child can be very different from that of an adult. Things like learning development, speech development, social interaction, and ability to play can be impacted by trauma, cognitive or physical impairments. Exercisabilities has an experienced pediatric team of occupational therapy, physical therapy, and speech therapy to work on all aspects of recovery and development.
But what about school therapy, isn’t that enough or doesn’t the school have an obligation to provide therapy to all children in need. Yes, school-based therapies are important. The goals of school-based therapies are to insure that all children get equal access to and benefit from school education. Often, it is not enough. For recovery and improved development to occur, frequency of intervention is key. Accessing an outpatient skilled therapy program in addition to your periodic school-based therapies is often essential for success to occur.
The overall benefit of a utilizing a separate and specialized pediatric therapy program with early intervention is to promote a higher level of independence lifelong for your child. We want each child to do as much as they can! With regularly scheduled therapies available at younger ages, strength can develop earlier, contractures can be prevented, speech can be improved, social interaction will excel, strategies for families and school can be made, and necessary equipment discovered. As the child grows, adjustments need to be made often to make for a successful overall plan. Pediatric therapy is IMPORTANT! Exercisabilities wants to be a place that makes all things POSSIBLE for children (and adults)!
At the end of the day, pediatric or adult, the goals are the same: to help each person reach their full potential and to improve. How we reach our goals and get to our final destination looks VERY different. Age is a number, but we need to be mindful how we meet the needs of our patients at all ages.