The Importance of Pediatric Physical Therapy


Pediatric physical therapists are specifically trained to improve the lives and daily function of children who suffer from a wide range of injuries and congenital conditions. The role of a pediatric therapist is to work with the child and their family to assist each child to reach their maximum potential to function independently and to promote active participation at home, in school, and in the community. Pediatric patients range from infants in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit to teenage competitive athletes, specifically 0 to 18 years of age, and young adults with childhood disorders.

What conditions can be treated with pediatric PT?

There are many familiar childhood disorders and diseases that present with movement dysfunction and motor skill issues that can be treated by physical therapy. These include Cerebral Palsy, Autism, Down Syndrome, Muscular Dystrophy and associated disorders, Spina Bifida, Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis, Arthrogyposis, Cardio-PulmonaryDisorders, Cystic Fibrosis, Cancer, and Traumatic Brain Injury. In addition, many children present with hypotonia and developmental coordination disorder without a formal diagnosis. Orthopedic conditions that can also be treated with PT include scoliosis, back pain, sports injuries, fractures, and orthopedic surgeries.

What is the pediatric PT’s role?

The role of the pediatric physical therapist is to evaluate and provide treatment for delays in motor skills by developing the strength and range of motion that children need to move through their environment easily and effectively. In addition to assessment of flexibility, strength, posture, gait, sensory processing, balance, coordination and skill, the pediatric therapist is trained to assess motor development using standardized testing for age equivalents. The long-term goal includes gross motor skill development solid to age with good quality to both sides of the body.

What makes pediatric PT different from regular PT?

Children often don’t understand why they are in therapy. Play, family involvement, and one-on-one care are exclusive to the pediatric therapists’ care of children. Fun and motivational factors are incorporated into functional activities to make therapy enjoyable for the child. Collaboration of care includes recommending and training in orthotics, prosthetics, adaptive equipment, custom wheelchair seating systems and assistive technology. In addition the pediatric PT provides family support including coordination of services, advocacy, and assistance with enhancing development.

Where can you find a pediatric PT?

Pediatric physical therapists practice in hospitals, outpatient clinics, home-care, schools, day care centers, and Early Intervention Programs.

Overall, a primary benefit of practicing pediatric Physical Therapy is the joy of helping children and their families achieve their greatest abilities under challenging circumstances. The mission of the APTA Pediatric Section is to promote the highest quality of life for children, people with developmental disabilities, and their families using evidence-based practice.

What clinics offer pediatric care at PT Solutions?

All of our clinics actively treat patients of all ages, however we have facilities in Florida and Illinois specifically devoted to treating children which offer physical therapy, occupational therapy and speech therapy.


About the PT

Susan Horwath, PT graduated from the University of Vermont with a B.S. in Physical Therapy. She has been treating pediatric patients exclusively for the past 35 years. Prior to joining the staff at Freytag Children’s Rehabilitation Center at Florida Hospital Flagler, Susan owned a private practice offering pediatric physical therapy, occupational therapy and speech therapy for 20 years. She enjoys living at the beach and participating in outdoor sports, running, biking, tennis and golf.