The Role of a Pediatric Physical Therapist


What do Physical Therapists do?  

Physical therapists (PT’s) are the movement experts.  PT’s work with individuals of all ages to assist them with their mobility: enabling them to move through their environment with the most independence as possible.   PT’s treat individuals after surgery or after an injury to help improve their mobility through their rehabilitation process.   PT services can address a variety of mobility concerns including weakness, decreased flexibility, poor posture, difficulty walking, decreased balance, and pain with movement.


What do Pediatric Physical Therapists do?

When it comes to working with children, a physical therapist works on the same underlying deficits as they do when working with adults, but in the context of children’s mobility and movements.  In infants, physical therapists work on the infant’s gross motor skill development.  This means that PT’s work with infants to help them in terms of learning how to move within their environment.  This includes learning how to roll over, sit up, crawl, stand, walk, etc.

In older children, physical therapists continue to work on mobility—helping them run, jump and play.  PT’s can also address a variety of other movement concerns including coordination deficits, balance deficits, and decreased core strength.

Pediatric PT’s will also treat children after injury and surgery, addressing the needs of the child to help them through their rehabilitation process.  Click here for more on the role of pediatric physical therapy.

How do I know if my child needs physical therapy?

  • After an injury (from a fall, during a sporting event, etc.)
  • After a surgery
  • If your child frequently falls, trips or slips and seems to be off balance
  • If your child has difficulty keeping up with his/her peers on the playground or at school
  • If your child has difficulty with coordinating his/her movements including tasks such as jumping jacks
  • If your child chronically complains of pain in the same body part
  • If your child is developmentally delayed- for details see below

Developmental Delay

Developmental delay is when your child is not reaching certain “motor milestones” at the expected age.  Children typically develop their gross motor skills such as rolling over, crawling and walking in a predictable sequence and within a predictable time frame. The basic motor milestones are depicted in the chart below with expected ages. If your child is not performing these motor milestones as expected, a physical therapist may be able to help your child.

Age Motor Milestone
3-4 months Holds head up in a variety of positions
5-6 months Rolls over tummy to back and back to tummy
6-7 months Sits well independently
8-10 months Crawls
9-11 months Pulls to stand
11-14 months Begins cruising along furniture and then walks independently
~2 years Begins to run, jump and gallop
~3 years Learns to stand on one foot
~4-5 years Learns to skip and hop

(For a more detailed list of motor milestones, click here)

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About the Author: The Therapy Spot
The Therapy Spot of Baltimore is a multi-disciplinary pediatric therapy center, featuring an energetic group of experienced and qualified therapists. We provide speech therapy, physical therapy, and occupational therapy to children in the greater Baltimore region.