Does My Child Need Physical Therapy?


Information By: Stephanie Barkan, PT, DPT

Edited By: Stephanie Boron, M.S., CCC-SLP

As a pediatric physical therapist, I work with children of all ages to help correct movement dysfunction and promote the development of age-appropriate gross motor skills. Often times, parents may have a concern regarding their child’s motor development and whether what they are seeing is typical. While regular visits with your child’s pediatrician will help to monitor if any major developmental milestones are not on target, there are many observations you can make as a caregiver regarding your child’s gross motor skills. This will look different across all ages. It is also important to remember that each child grows and develops differently, and that a timeline is relative due to each child’s unique characteristics. While physical therapy is often recommended for a child with a medical diagnosis or following a surgery, there are many other reasons why your child may benefit from treatment. If you do notice any of the following, it is best to discuss your findings with your pediatrician and a pediatric physical therapist. Read on for some tips on what to look for:

In infants you may notice:

  • Torticollis: Tilting and turning of the head and neck to one side
  • Plagiocephaly/Brachycephaly: Flattening of the back of the skull either on one or both sides
  • Floppiness or stiffness in muscle tone
  • An inability to hold his/her head up while placed on the stomach at 4 months
  • Delayed gross motor milestones. General guidelines for these skills are as follows:
  • Rolling independently to both directions by 6 months
  • Sitting independently by 6-8 months
  • Crawling by 9-10 months (or asymmetry with crawling)
  • Walking independently by 12-15 months

 In toddlers, you may see:

  •   Consistently sitting with legs in a “W” position (knees turned inward with feet outside of hips)
  • Walking frequently up on toes (especially if continued for 3 months beyond independent walking)
  • Inability to run by 2 years of age
  • Inability to stand on 1 foot at 2-3 years of age
  • Inability to jump with 2 feet by 3 years
  • Inability to hop on 1 foot by 4 years
  • Frequent falls or general clumsiness

Signs your child may benefit from physical therapy at any age include:

  • Poor posture, often sitting/standing in a slouched position
  • Difficulty keeping up with peers in regards to gross motor performance
  • Avoidance of physical activity
  • Decreased endurance
  • A decline or significant change in gross motor skill level
  • Pain
  • An injury

You child’s gross motor abilities can also impact other areas of development. For instance, children who have difficulty with fine motor activities may lack the core stability and postural control needed for these tasks. If your child is currently seeing an OT to address concerns in this area, you may want to speak with them to determine if your child would benefit from participation in physical therapy as well.

Additionally, postural control and strength affect head and neck control and breath support which can impact your child’s speech abilities. Often children with poor articulation or oral motor skills also have decreased core strength and postural stability. Therefore, physical therapy can be a beneficial addition to speech therapy to help your child progress toward their goals.

If you would like to learn more or if you have any questions, feel free to contact me at  or 847-663-1020 ext.192.




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