Pediatric Physical Therapy
It was during the polio epidemic during the 1920's that the career of pediatric physical therapy was born. Through science, proper techniques have been developed to help children and people with learning disabilities (usually under the age of 25), with therapeutic techniques to treat musculoskeletal issues. If you want to work with infant patients or young adults this is a career option you should consider.
The types of patients that a pediatric physical therapist works with range from premature-born infants that suffer from developmental delay and mobility problems, young cancer patients, those who have suffered traumatic brain injuries, victims of cerebral palsy, cystic fibrosis, and scoliosis. The pediatric PT also works with children that suffer from all sorts of chronic pain.
Most PT's and OT's will work with adolescent patients, but a Pediatric PT/OT is a professional individual who has chosen to specialize in his/her own field, in this case, pediatrics.
Pediatric PT Job Description
First and foremost the job of the physical therapist in this setting is to listen to the parents and/or family members about the issues facing the patient. If the patient is old enough the PT will interview the patient and then physically examine them to find the source of the problem. After the source of the issue is known or found, it is the job of the pediatric PT to create a plan, customized to each individual's needs.
The Pediatric PT mainly deals with younger patients and helps them to improve motor functions through exercises that help develop and improve the child's ability to move more efficiently, by improving strength, balance, endurance (including heart and lung endurance), and gait. In addition, the pediatric PT also educates family members about home safety and instructs about useful exercises that the patient can do at home to advance their overall development and delayed motor development. The physical therapist cannot be with their patients 24/7, so patients who work out at home see the most advanced results.
Designing and fitting patients with prosthetics, orthotics or other assistive technology may also be part of the responsibilities of the PT. In addition burn and wound care, manual manipulation of body parts, breathing training, and meeting the needs of special children may also be the responsibility of the pediatric physical therapist.
Pediatric Physical Therapy Equipment And Work Environment
Most PT's will have an array of tools that when utilized can be both beneficial to the patient, and also make rehabilitation fun. The PT gym (pictured above) has all sorts of PT equipment that aid in rehab, while appearing to the child as a play environment. Children want to play and the PT should be patient and playful to make the tasks fun while making sure that the rehab is safe. The PT utilizes recreational, developmental and play therapy and should try to make rehabilitation fun whenever possible.
The work environment is not always in the gym. The gym provides a great place for improving balance on land, but the swimming pool is a great tool for at least part of the rehabilitation. Aquatic physical therapy is used and has a host of benefits and most children love playing in the water. What they deem as playful activity can really be a great workout while relieving stress on painful joints while having a greater freedom of movement because of buoyancy.
The job can be challenging and yet rewarding when you see progress in your patients. Usually, these are patients that you have been working closely with and with their families to form the plan of action, to rehabilitate, to make children and young adults more independent and make them able to function at school or for life in general.