Paediatric physiotherapists aim to minimise the effects of physical impairment to promote optimum function and musculoskeletal development. Advice on activities and stretches offered by the physiotherapist can assist in maintaining full range of movement and prevention of contracture
Paediatric physiotherapists assess and treat infants and children with a range of conditions including:
- Cerebral palsy – from mild hemiplegia to severe quadriplegia
- Developmental delay – due to hypotonia with or without diagnosis and may be gross motor or global
- Syndromes and other genetic conditions
- Spina bifida and neural tube defects
- Muscular dystrophy and spinal muscular atrophy
- Brachial plexus lesions
- Juvenile chronic arthritis (JCA)
- Visual handicaps
- Premature babies with dystonia
- Postural problems – torticollis, scoliosis, talipes, metatarsus adductus, or idiopathic toe walkers
- Respiratory problems such as cystic fibrosis or asthma
- Osteogenis imperfect
- Minimal cerebral dysfunction
The role of the paediatric physiotherapist is to assess the referred child and give parents and/or carers advice regarding handling, positioning and treatment through play and/or exercise. Physiotherapists work closely with families, carers, teachers, doctors and other health professionals. The approach is holistic and practical, with an emphasis on gross motor function and posture. For better outcomes and most effective treatment results, early referral is the key (before eight months). Infants and children can be seen at home, day care centre, Early Intervention Programs, schools or clinics on a regular basis.
Advice will be given on appropriate handling and equipment including seating, standing frames, mobility aids and pushers. A range of treatment methods may be used such as neurodevelopmental therapy, motor learning and hydrotherapy. Physiotherapists are often the first therapist to see the child and are well received by parents.
Physiotherapists help to maintain and develop functional skill level and range of movement in order to minimise joint contracture and postural deformities.
They encourage children to partake in a wide range of activities at school and in the community to maintain physical fitness and provide opportunities for socialisation with their peers. They also prescribe and monitor the use of aids such as orthotics, walking aids, and wheelchairs to help maintain independence.