Identifying, Treating Pediatric Vestibular Dysfunction Involves Occupational, Physical Therapy Collaboration
Once upon a time, vestibular dysfunction in children was thought to be exceptionally rare. Our occupational and physical therapists know, however, that pediatric vestibular disorders, which affect as many as 35 percent of adults, are increasingly being identified earlier than ever. Symptoms include chronic dizziness and imbalance. In children, vestibular system disorders can also cause problems in early development, impacting:
- Ability to maintain an upright position when sitting;
- Delays in crawling and walking;
- Difficulty with steady vision when moving the head (for example when copying words or letters at a chalkboard when seated at a desk);
- Diminished balance and motor function.
Long-term, this can have significant and painful social, educational and economic impacts for kids. Professionals on our FOCUS Fort Myers occupational and physical therapy teams are committed to identifying and addressing these issues early on, promoting the highest possible level of relief and function and ultimately mitigating the worst adverse impacts.
What is the Vestibular System and How Do I Know if My Child’s is Dysfunctional?
Popularity of youth sports has exploded in recent years, and that’s great news for public health. However, it has also meant an uptick in child sports injuries – especially knee injuries like ACL tears. FOCUS Fort Myers physical therapy can help your teen get back on their feet – and hopefully back to their sport – often with a few months of treatment.
The Cleveland Clinic reports it’s not just boys but girls too who are suffering sports injuries, as their participation rates have spiked. The hospital reports male and female injury rates are about the same these days, with 40 percent of all child injuries requiring emergency department treatment now being sports-related, amounting to roughly 4.4 million annually.
Our FOCUS Fort Myers physical therapists know sometimes child sports injuries are worsened when coaches or teammates trivialize them, urging the youth to just play through the pain and stay tough.
Could improving grades and classroom behavior be as simple as changing a child’s chair? That’s what a number of physical therapy researchers have concluded in recent years.
As pediatric physical therapists, we help children improve fine and gross motor skills using “playtime” designed to strengthen or stretch certain muscle groups, manage pain or work on balance. Many of our FOCUS patients have conditions like down syndrome, cerebral palsy or spinal injuries where this type of intervention is obvious. However, we’re increasingly seeing a number who have conditions (co-occurring or singular) like autism and attention deficient hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
Children with all these conditions are often very bright (sometimes exceptionally so) but may struggle with how to behave appropriately in a classroom setting, especially when required (like every other student) to sit still for long periods, denied opportunities to retreat from overstimulation or outlets to meet their sensory needs. These elements are just as important for them to achieve success in the classroom as any amount of studying.
Pediatric physical therapists have studied this particular issue, and have discovered that for many children with ADHD, dynamic seating can offer important benefits that can help improve classroom behavior and academic outcomes.
Chronic constipation is a crappy problem – one common among all children, but especially prevalent among children special needs. Pediatric physical therapy at FOCUS Fort Myers may help, using exercises to strengthen pelvic muscles and improve posture.
We know this can be an uncomfortable issue to discuss, but if it’s causing your child pain and difficulty on a regular basis, it’s one that requires attention because it’s essential to good health. The Journal of Pediatrics reports constipation among children with autism is associated with increased emergency department visits and inpatient admissions. Depending on the underlying cause, pediatric physical therapy may help alleviate the problem. Occupational therapists, ABA therapists and even speech therapists can also collaborate on solutions.
Constipation involves either the inability to pass stool or problems that make it not as easy or frequent as one would like.
One analysis published in the journal Gastroenterology examined more than 50 school-age children suffering from functional constipation, all of whom were receiving the “standard” treatment for chronic constipation, which included potty training, education and laxatives. Half were randomly chosen to also receive pediatric physical therapy. Six months later, more than 90 percent of the children who got physical therapy no longer suffered from constipation, compared to about 60 percent of those who didn’t get physical therapy.
A child who struggles to explore their environment on the same level of their peers due to a gross motor delay may struggle on other fronts too, including cognitive development and behavioral challenges.
Recently, the journal Physical Therapy published a study determining that gross motor delays were associated with problem daytime behaviors and quality of life issues for children with autism spectrum disorder. Researchers examined cross-sectional, retrospective data of more than 3,200 children between the ages of 2 and 6 diagnosed with ASD. They found that children who struggled more with gross motor skills had more daytime problem behaviors. So when the goal is targeting problem behaviors for children with ASD, researchers concluded it’s important not to overlook the possible need for physical therapy.
Children with a wide range of conditions and diagnoses may have gross motor delays, which are those skills involving the large muscles of the arms, legs and torso. Gross motor skill delays might become apparent when a child is learning to crawl, sit, walk, run, throw a ball or balance. All kids reach developmental milestones at varying increments, but those who are far behind can benefit from physical therapy to help them catch up.
Gross motor skill delays can be linked to any number of conditions – or may exist independently of anything else. Untreated, these delays can impact your child’s ability to reach their full potential.
Staff Report, FOCUS Therapy
Fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASDs) are conditions that result in a person whose mother drank alcohol during pregnancy. The effects can include problems with learning and behavior, as well as issues with muscle tone. At FOCUS in Fort Myers, we know that early diagnosis and early intervention can make a huge difference in a child’s long-term prognosis. Physical therapy is one aspect of that plan.
There is no lab tests that definitively proves a child has fetal alcohol syndrome, and many of its symptoms can reflect conditions like attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Federal data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reveals there are as many as 1.5 infants with FASDs out of every 1,000 live births. One recent study found that 1 in 10 pregnant women reported using alcohol use (at least one drink) at some point during her pregnancy and 1 in 33 reported binge drinking (defined as four or more drinks at a time) in the previous 30 days.
Therapies must be tailored to each individual child because fetal alcohol syndrome can affect children differently. As noted by WebMD, symptoms of the condition may include:
- Learning disabilities
- Trouble with coordination, attention and memory
- Struggle with sleep/ nursing (infants)
- Problems with bones, kidney or heart
These symptoms can worsen if not treated. Although FASDs are not curable, they can be treated and their impact lessened. Those who are diagnosed and treated before the age of 6 show the best outcomes.
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.