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  • Beth Miller, DPT

The Importance of Physical Therapy for Children with Developmental Delay


What can I do if my child does not seem to developing like other children their age?

Your child may have “Developmental Delay.” Developmental Delay can describe any type of delay related to motor (movement), speech (talking) or thinking abilities. About 10% of all toddlers and preschoolers in the U.S. are diagnosed with developmental delay. The delay does not necessarily have to be a result of a specific condition. Early intervention is the best practice to prevent further delay or to “catch up.”

Generally developmental delay is suspected when your child does not meet the milestones for his or her age. For example, an infant may shows signs of delay if they are unable to hold their head up by 4 months, sit independently by 6 months or walk by 12-13 months. These delays may be a result of low muscle tone or decreased interaction to foster movement. Some children have sensory problems where they may be hypersensitive to touch which may contribute to movement difficulty or fear of trying new motor skills.

If you begin to notice delays in your child you should consult your pediatrician about your concerns. It is usually diagnosed by using tests designed to score your child’s motor, communication or play compared against the normal range of scores for children of the same age. Usually the pediatrician will assess your child during infancy to determine if they are progressing normally. If delay is noticed a referral to a physical therapist can be obtained and a more in depth and detailed evaluation will be done on the child.

Once completing the initial evaluation of your child, the physical therapist can coordinate with you as the caregiver to determine a treatment plan for your child. For physical therapy, the primary focus is on building motor skills. For example, if the child is having difficulty coming to a sit position from lying down, the therapist may work with the child on rolling to the side and pushing up using one arm. In addition, the therapist will also teach the caregivers what they can do to practice the skills at home with everyday activities.

Once developmental delay has been diagnosed, there are actions that can be taken to prevent further delay or to help your child catch up to their developmental milestones. Remember to speak with your pediatrician if you suspect that your child may be showing signs of delay. With a referral from your pediatrician you can begin physical therapy. It is important to remember that the earlier the intervention, the more likely it will be that your child will make improvements and not continue to fall behind.

#DevelopmentalDelay #pediatrics

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