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The Role of the Pediatric Therapist for Children with Developmental Disabilities

Pediatric Therapist with Young Patient

What is developmental delay? Children are expected to reach certain motor milestones by specific ages. Some children achieve skills quickly while other children take more time to achieve these skills. A child may have delays in gross motor skills, fine motor skills, language skills, cognition, or a combination of several domains.

As a parent or caregiver, you may be concerned if you notice that your child seems to be lagging behind the other children. You may notice on playdates that your child falls more often than other children when walking or running. During Mommy and me classes, you may notice that your child sits in one place and isn’t moving around like the other children his or her age. Perhaps your child is not yet walking and other children his or her age are already attempting to run. If you are concerned about your child’s development in relation to what typical children of the same age are doing, it may be worthwhile to make a visit to a pediatric therapist.

If you suspect that your child may have some developmental delays, the first step would be to discuss this with your pediatrician. Your pediatrician may refer you to a developmental pediatrician or pediatric neurologist to further evaluate the concerns you have regarding your child. Your doctor may then refer your child to therapy to address the delays and assist your child with achieving his or her motor milestones.

What exactly is the role of a pediatric therapist? A pediatric therapist has extensive knowledge on typical development and therefore is an expert on assessing babies and young children who may have some delays. Physical and occupational therapists are specialist in movement. Physical therapists (PT’s) concentrate on gross motor skills or movement patterns involving large group muscles (e.g. crawling, running, jumping, etc.). Occupational therapists (OT’s) concentrate on fine motor skills which involve smaller muscles (e.g. grasping, buttoning, handwriting, etc.). Additionally, OT’s may address cognitive, visual-motor integration and visual perception impairments and delays. Speech Language Pathologists focus on articulation, language, feeding, and oral-motor delays. Pediatric therapists work with the child and his or her family to help him gain the skills he needs to be able to keep up with his peers, explore the world around him, and enjoy the many beautiful things childhood has to offer.

Jennifer_Crane-200-240Jennifer Crane is a doctor of physical therapy and board certified pediatric specialist at the CA Technologies Rehabilitation Center within Hospital for Special Surgery’s Lerner Children’s Pavilion. She is certified with the Neuro-Developmental Treatment Association. She is Assistant Section Manager in the CA Technologies Rehabilitation Center at the Lerner Children’s Pavilion.

The information provided in this blog by HSS and our affiliated physicians is for general informational and educational purposes, and should not be considered medical advice for any individual problem you may have. This information is not a substitute for the professional judgment of a qualified health care provider who is familiar with the unique facts about your condition and medical history. You should always consult your health care provider prior to starting any new treatment, or terminating or changing any ongoing treatment. Every post on this blog is the opinion of the author and may not reflect the official position of HSS. Please contact us if we can be helpful in answering any questions or to arrange for a visit or consult.