Physical Therapy Services in Early Intervention
Physical Therapy (PT) services can be provided to children from birth through three years of age through the county’s Early Intervention Program. The process begins with an evaluation of the child to determine his/her gross motor skill level in different areas such as stationary (sitting, standing), locomotor (crawling, walking, climbing) and skills requiring object manipulation (playing with blocks, balls). It also involves a detailed history of the child’s developmental milestones and any relevant medical information.
Once the evaluation process is completed, the need for PT is determined by a team of parents, a PT, an educational evaluator, and a representative from the county’s Department of Health. If services are recommended, then realistic and obtainable goals are developed by the team.
Physical Therapy should always be family-centered and child-directed. Treatment of the child takes place at the child’s home or at a location that is convenient for the family. Family involvement is very important to the child’s progress. It can strengthen the carryover of newly acquired skills into the child’s daily life.
Therapy sessions may include strengthening/stretching activities to build muscle strength and joint stability, posture and balance activities to improve the child’s ability to move through its environment without falling, and functional activities that represent things the child may encounter throughout its day, such as climbing, lifting/carrying, opening/closing, and pushing/pulling toys and other items children play with during the day. This is achieved through therapeutic play with the child by incorporating toys that require desired physical actions as well as other therapy equipment. Therapy balls, balance boards, theraband, scooters, and many other items that may seem like they are just for “play” can be incorporated into a child’s therapy session in order to promote gross motor development and acquisition of specific skills.
The optimal environment for a child receiving early intervention services is when the families and Physical Therapists work together as a team with open communication and carryover into the child’s daily routine. This will ensure that everyone is working towards the same goals for the child and this will help the child reach its fullest potential and maximize his/her independence and functioning in their environment.