Tuesday, March 24, 2009

The Role of PT in the Special Needs Child

Working as a Physical Therapist Asst. for many years, I have learned that people give many reasons for not participating in therapy. Among the reasons given is that the patient believes he/she will progress just the same with or without therapy. There may be a little truth to that statement although it is a statement without a full understanding of what physical therapy can accomplish if done consistently. Let me explain.

While we as parents may not have control over who our children will be as I believe that we all have a path in life that we are wired to follow, we do have control over abilities like strength, eye-hand coordination, thinking before we speak, manners, throwing a ball, socialization skills, etc. We have all seen the movies or read the books of what happens to children when we ignore them during their molding period. Often times we expect that our children will learn these things from osmosis and while there are some exceptions, most of these traits/skills are all learned.

It is the same with therapy, especially for a child with special needs. Children with special needs (CP, Ds, Autism, etc.) simply do not progress like children without these diagnoses. The muscles in children with special needs are not as balanced, meaning that some are weaker than others. It is this weakness that sets the child up to learn wrong movement patterns thereby just exacerbating the problem further because the weakness is never strengthened.

A Physical Therapist is trained to spot these bad movement patterns and to help the child learn the correct patterns thereby strengthening the muscles and bringing all the muscles more into balance. A person who is better balanced strength wise is going to have better posture and better coordination. Good balance also plays a role in good health. For example, a person with uneven balance distributes body weight differently over the hips, knees and ankles which can be deforming if not addressed. Also, poor posture can decrease ability to take deep breaths which can lead to other things.

So yes, a child/adult will heal from an injury or learn to walk, etc without the help of a Therapist but the quality of life will probably not be the same as if the person received therapy. So I leave you with this encouraging word - therapy is a much needed service in the life of your special needs child. We all want our children to grow up to lead happy, productive and long lives so it is important to give them the tools that they are going to need. Unfortunately, one of those tools requires learning how to use all of the muscles we have so they can move correctly. Make it a priority to take them to therapy sessions and to set aside time during the day to work with your child (even if it is 15 minutes). Our children are fully dependent upon us to provide everything for them.


Ruby's Mom said...

John looks great!Ruby is still not sitting on her own,that is one of the things her PT is working on.How many times and how long each day do you work on PT with John?Maybe I'm not working with Ruby enough.She will prop sit for a few seconds.

Laurie said...

Im curious about that as well Ruby's Mom. Dylan also isnt sitting on his own and it makes me feel like I am not doing enough.

Tausha said...

You are right, they do look alot alike and could pass as brothers. He is sooo cute. I think the reason Sam has done so well with sitting up and standing is he didn't have any heart issues or really any issues at all. He was born with a good suck and good muscle tone so I think genetically he had a head start and I don't know that it's because of anything I have done. Sometimes I feel bad posting that he is doing so well as I don't want others to feel bad and that there not doing enough. I noticed a post on your blog that one of the Mom's was feeling a bit down. Please don't. I think Sam just had a little bit of a head start for some reason.

heather said...

I left a comment on Finnian's Journey about not thinking therapy is important. I hope you didn't take that wrong. I do believe it has it's place. But I think too many new parents put all their focus on it and forget about all the great things they did with their other children that benefitted them cognitively. If I could do it again I would have read more, sung more and played more with Morgan and not worried so much about her gross motor stuff. I totally agree that PT is wonderful to make sure the kids are using their muscles correctly and reaching the next milestones with the correct steps. I know I don't want Morgan to end up in a wheelchair as a teenager because of knee and hip problems from doing things the wrong way for so many years, etc. The biggest help and advice that I got for Morgan was to never hold her on my hip like I did with my other babies. I never held her with her legs spread out over my hips. And she has NEVER had problems with rolling through her legs to get from her back to her stomach (does that make sense) and she has never slept in the splits (like some of her friends do). I think that made a huge difference in her hip ligament strength. Anyway...I am always long winded. I think when your son is a few years older you will understand my viewpoint a little more. You'll have to let me know! :)