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Five Signs Your Child May Need Physical Therapy

Most parents at some point or another question whether their child is properly developing.

“Is that normal?” we ask. “Should I be worried or call someone?”

The need for physical therapy is sometimes obvious, but not always. At FOCUS, our Fort Myers physical therapists for children know a parent’s instincts are usually right. We do offer free screenings to help determine whether we should proceed with an evaluation and possibly services.

Children develop and improve their motor skills significantly between the ages of 3 and 10, though sometimes children even younger might need physical therapy. While there are many reasons parents might seek physical therapy, here are five signs you may want to consider seeking a free screening.

  • Your infant or child is delayed with gross motor development. Of course, all children develop at different paces. But if your child isn’t rolling, sitting, crawling, standing or walking within the general time frame, as outlined by the Children’s Hospital of Richmond at VCU, you may want to consider seeking a consultation with a physical therapist.
  • Your infant constantly tilts his or her head to one side. Formally, this is diagnosed as “torticollis,” but it’s also sometimes referred to as “wryneck,” which in Latin literally means, “twisted neck.” It’s a condition that can occur after awkward positioning in the womb or following a difficult childbirth. It can be present right at birth, or it could be something that develops over the course of those first three months. A child with this condition may have difficulty breastfeeding on one side, will prefer to look at you over the shoulder rather than turning head to follow you or may seemingly have an inability to turn his or her head completely.
  • Your child has trouble keeping up with peers at recess or in play. You may notice your child has trouble skipping, jumping or galloping when compared to his friends. Inability to skip forward or do a jumping jack could be a red flag that help is needed. He or she might have a gate that is atypical (i.e., walking on their toes or being “knock-kneed”). Watch to see whether your child frequently bumps into objects, falls or trips – more so than the other kids – or if he or she runs much slower than the others or has difficulty running for more than a minute or so. He or she might even choose to sit out the fun rather than try to keep pace.
  • Your child “W”-sits, or props onto their arms when sitting criss-cross. If a child sits this way, it could be an indication of other problems. In particular, it might mean he or she has weak core muscles. This in turn could be a poor foundation for fine motor skills. Things like using scissors, handwriting or certain self-care tasks would be more difficult for a child with poor fine motor skills. This “W” position sitting is a red flag that shouldn’t be ignored.
  • Your child has suffered an injury or underwent surgery. Anything from a broken bone to a traumatic brain injury can warrant physical therapy. The question is whether your child is unable to perform at his or her previous level of function or at a level of function that they should for their age. We can also help to prevent injuries by addressing issues with muscle imbalance, range-of-motion deficits and muscle weakness.

A pediatric physical therapist can help promote functional mobility, gross motor skills and fine motor skills.

The American Physical Therapy Association Section Pediatric Intervention recently convened a special interest group on early intervention for children. It’s noted that physical therapy is often a component of early intervention services for children with special needs and delays.

If you have questions about whether your child might need physical therapy, we’re happy to offer guidance.

FOCUS offers pediatric physical therapy in Fort Myers and throughout Southwest Florida. Call (239) 313.5049 or Contact Us online.

Additional Resources:

Gross Motor Skills: Birth to Age 5, Children’s Hospital of Richmond at VCU

More Blog Entries:

Study: Better Access to Early Intervention Helps Children At-Risk for Autism, March 12, 2017, Fort Myers Physical Therapy Blog

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