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What Is the Difference Between Occupational and Physical Therapy for Children?

Many of the parents I meet often ask why very few occupational therapist work with infants, or why an occupational therapist (OT) is seeing their child for toe-walking as opposed to a physical therapist (PT). They often wonder why one child who has balance or coordination issues would see a physical therapist while another with similar limitations would see an occupational therapist instead. Some parents think that occupational therapists only work on fine motor skills while physical therapists only work on gross motor skills.  Physical and occupational therapists work in a variety of settings, including hospitals, neonatal intensive care units, skilled nursing homes, outpatient clinics, schools, rehabilitation centers, and doctor’s offices.  Physical therapist and occupational therapist roles differ depending on the setting they work in and the medical diagnoses they work with.

In the outpatient clinic, some of these roles may overlap.  While there are some similarities between PTs and OTs in each setting, there are a few fundamental differences between OTs and PTs in the pediatric setting.

Pediatric Physical Therapy:

In the pediatric outpatient setting, physical therapists are often musculoskeletal and movement specialists. Parents can seek out evaluations when their babies are as young as 1 month old. Physical therapists have in-depth knowledge about human musculoskeletal, neuromuscular, integumentary, and cardiovascular systems. Based on our background in stages of development and biomechanics, we help children with mobility difficulties; whether they are behind on their gross motor milestones, recovering from injury/surgery, or not keeping up with other children.

Through all kinds of hands-on or play techniques, pediatric physical therapist work with children on the following:

  • Gross motor skills
  • Strength
  • Endurance
  • Balance and coordination
  • Motor control and motor planning
  • Body awareness
  • Pain relief
  • Flexibility
  • Gait mechanics
  • Orthotics training
  • Wound care

Our focus is for children to be as mobile and as independent as possible, while training their caregivers on all aspects of a child’s physical development. This includes anything that may affect a child’s quality of movement, posture, alignment, and safety.

Pediatric Occupational Therapy

Outpatient pediatric occupational therapists are trained to improve the quality of children’s participation in their daily functional tasks.  A child’s job is to play and take part in activities at school and at home. These include important endeavors such as paying attention in class, hand writing, dressing, feeding and grooming themselves, and being able to engage in age-appropriate games. Occupational therapists are also trained to help children organize and interpret information from the environment so that they can just be kids. This may include taste aversions that limit their food intake, or texture aversions that affect their clothing tolerance, or sound aversions that affect their mood.

OTs work with children on the following skills:

  • Sensory integration
  • Cognitive endurance
  • Fine motor skills
  • Hand function
  • Visual-spatial awareness
  • Hand-eye coordination
  • Attention
  • Social skills
  • Body awareness

Occupational therapists often educate parents and teachers on the best techniques to ensure children participate in learning, self-care, and play tasks.

Why do some children need both disciplines and some only need one?

So many factors can affect a child’s ability to participate in her daily life. A child may be experiencing frequent falls or may have trouble jumping due to a number of reasons.  No matter the diagnosis or underlying medical condition, any child who is having a hard time keeping up with his peers can benefit from a comprehensive evaluation by a pediatric specialist.

3 Tips to Encourage Your Baby to Sit Independently

Sitting independently is a wonderful and fun new milestone for every baby. It is the first time your little one is upright and able to look around.  In the sitting position, babies have both hands free to play with toys.  Although there is a healthy range of ages for a child to achieve the milestone of sitting independently, a good rule of thumb is that a baby should sit independently for longer than a minute at six months of age. If  your baby needs some encouragement to sit on her own, there are strategies you can use to help. Read more

Why It’s Important For A Baby Not To Skip Crawling | Pediatric Therapy TV

In today’s Webisode, a pediatric physical therapist shows how crawling is essential for an infant’s muscles and sensory input.

Read these useful tips on how to encourage your baby to crawl

In this video you will learn:

  • How crawling influences an infant’s muscles
  • What essential skills infants learn to master when crawling

Physical Activities to Get your Child Moving | Pediatric Therapy Tv

In today’s Webisode, a pediatric physical therapist will explain creative ways to help your child get up and get active!

In this video you will learn:

  • What indoor games are best for encouraging physical activity with your child
  • What outdoor activities increase muscular activity
  • What gaming system is best for enhancing your child’s activity

Video Transcription:

Announcer: From Chicago’s leading experts in pediatrics to a worldwide
audience, this is Pediatric Therapy TV, where we provide experience and
innovation to maximize your child’s potential. Now you’re host, here’s
Robyn.

Robyn: Hello, and welcome to Pediatric Therapy TV. I’m your host Robyn
Ackerman, and today I’m standing here with Leida Van Oss, a
pediatric physical therapist. Leida, can you tell us some
physical activities that we can use to get our children
moving?

Leida: Sure. When you want to get your kid moving and active, it’s
really important that it’s something that’s fun to them. So
if they’re really interested in doing board games, there
are a couple different board games you can do, such as
Hullabaloo or I Can Do That by Cat in the Hat or Twister.
If they like to go outdoors, then do something like a
sport, like swimming or soccer, or if there’s snow on the
ground, you can build forts or go sledding. But it’s really
important to pick something that they’re going to be
interested in so that they get really active.

If they really like video games, there are a lot of good active video
games you can do, especially with the new system, the
Kinect. Things like Just Dance or Dance, Dance Revolution
are all really good games that incorporate the video game
aspect with being really active.

Robyn: All right. Well, thank you so much for those tips, and thank
you to our viewers, and remember, keep on blossoming.

Announcer: This has been Pediatric Therapy TV, where we bring peace of
mind to your family with the best in educational
programming. To subscribe to our broadcast, read our blogs,
or learn more, visit our website at LearnMore.me. That’s
LearnMore.me.

Ways to Encourage a Baby to Sit Up | Pediatric Therapy Tv

In today’s Webisode, a pediatric physical therapist will show us helpful ways to encourage a baby to sit up independently.

Read about useful tips to get your baby to roll

In this video you will learn:

  • How old your baby should be to sit up
  • Strategies to support your baby as they sit up

Video transcription:

Announcer: From Chicago’s leading experts in pediatrics to a worldwide
audience, this is Pediatric Therapy TV, where we provide
experience and innovation to maximize your child’s
potential. Now your host, here’s Robyn.

Robyn: Hello, and welcome to Pediatric Therapy TV. I’m your host Robyn
Ackerman, and I’m here today with Leida Van Oss, a
Pediatric Physical Therapist. Leida, can you tell us a
couple tips on how to get a child to start sitting up
independently?

Leida: Sure. So the first stage of sitting should be done by four
months of age, and this is called prop sitting. This is
when they support themselves on their own. So you want to
put a toy down by their feet, and then tilt them forward so
that they put their hands on the ground, and then that
should encourage them to support themselves on their hands.
She’s older than four months, so she doesn’t want to do it.

But then the next stage is this kind of sitting, where they
want to bring up their hands, and sit by themselves
independently. So if they’re not quite wanting to do that
yet, you can take their toy – there we go – and lift it up
in front of them, so that they want to look up and raise
their arms up. This will activate the core and back
muscles, which will help bring up their head and do more of
an independent sitting.

You want to make sure that you keep a hand behind their
body, so that in case they topple backwards, you can catch
them really quickly. Then, the last mature stage of sitting
are things like rotating and reaching out if they need some
support. So, again, you can use toys to have them turn to
the side or reach up, or reach far [inaudible 00:01:37].
Those are all things that are going to help encourage more
mature sitting skills.

Robyn: All right. Well, thank you so much, and thank you to our
viewers, and remember, keep on blossoming.

Announcer: This has been Pediatric Therapy TV, where we bring peace of
mind to your family with the best in educational
programming. To subscribe to our broadcast, read our blogs,
or learn more, visit our website at learnmore.me. That’s
learnmore.me.

Toe Walkers Part 2: When You Should Seek Help | Pediatric Therapy Tv

In today’s Webisode, a pediatric physical therapist discusses the intervention needed for a toe walking child.  For more on Toe walking, read this blog.

To Watch Part 1 of the Toe Walking Webisode, click here.

In this video you will learn:

  • How soon a toddler needs therapy intervention for toe walking
  • What is the maximum age  a child should stop toe walking

 Video Transcription:

Announcer: From Chicago’s leading experts in pediatrics to a worldwide audience, this is Pediatric Therapy TV, where we provide experience and innovation to maximize your child’s potential. Now, your host, here’s Robyn.

Robyn: Hello and welcome to Pediatric Therapy TV. I’m your host, Robyn Ackerman. I’m stranding here today with pediatric physical therapist, Colleen Kearns. Colleen, when it comes to toe walking, when is intervention needed?

Colleen: Well, when it comes to toe walking, the earlier the intervention, the better, because toe walking can become such a strong habit in children. The longer that they do toe walk, the harder it is to break that habit. And then, also I mentioned before, when the muscles do become shorter, the more the child’s toe walking, the shorter the muscles will become. And then the longer that it goes, the harder it’s going to be to reverse that. So, if the child is over 2 years old and walking on the toes over 50% of the time, so the majority of the time that they’re walking, then it’s time to seek intervention.

Robyn: All right. Thank you so much, Colleen. Thank you to our viewers, and remember, keep on blossoming.

Announcer: This has been Pediatric Therapy TV, where we bring peace of mind to your family with the best in educational programming. To subscribe to our broadcast, read our blogs, or learn more, visit our website at LearnMore.me. That’s LearnMore.me.

Toe Walkers Part 1: What are Reasons Children Toe Walk | Pediatric Therapy Tv

In today’s Webisode, a pediatric physical therapist explains why children may walk on their toes.

Learn more from this blog called “Is Toe Walking Normal?”

In this video you will learn:

  • How sensory input is related to toe walking
  • What is muscular dystrophy
  • What is idiopathic toe walking

Video Transcription:

Announcer: From Chicago’s leading experts in pediatrics to a worldwide audience, this is Pediatric Therapy TV, where we provide experience and innovation to maximize your child’s potential. Now, your host, here’s Robyn.

Robyn: Hello, and welcome to Pediatric Therapy TV. I’m your host, Robyn Ackerman, and I’m standing here today with Colleen Kearns, a Pediatric Physical Therapist. Colleen, can you give our viewers an explanation of why some children toe walk?

Colleen: Of course, Robyn. There are three main reasons why children may toe walk. The first one is related to sensory issues. Some children may actually be hypersensitive to certain textures on the floors that they are walking on, and the surfaces that they are walking on. So if that occurs, they may be more prone to walk on their toes to avoid those uncomfortable textures.

On the other hand, they may also be seeking extrasensory input. Maybe, some kids need a little bit more of the sensory input, and by walking on their toes they are locking their ankles and knees, and by doing that, they are actually getting more input from their joints. So that’s also why children with autism will walk on their toes, to get that extrasensory input.

The second main reason that children toe walk is due to an underlying diagnosis. Muscular dystrophy is a big one. That’s a genetic disorder where the muscle tissue is destroyed and it’s actually replaced by fat, and the calf muscles are often the first ones to be involved with that. So children with muscular dystrophy will toe walk in an effort to stabilize, due to the decreased strength. Any condition that results in an abnormal increase in muscle tone will also result in toe walking. A common one with that would be cerebral palsy.

The third reason why kids may toe walk is actually unknown. Some children, who don’t have an underlying diagnosis and don’t have sensory issues, just prefer to walk on their toes, and that’s what we call idiopathic toe walking, which means we just don’t know. Unfortunately, they can get into a very strong habit of doing it, and when they do that it results in a shortening of the muscles in their calf, and that actually makes it harder for the child to be able to get their foot flat on the ground. And when that happens, it’s kind of like a vicious cycle. They are more likely to be walking on their toes because they have a strong habit, then their muscles get shorter, then it’s harder for them to walk on their flat feet, so then they are even more prone to walking on their toes.

Robyn: All right. Well, thank you so much, and thank you to our viewers. And remember, keep on blossoming.

Announcer: This has been Pediatric Therapy TV, where we bring peace of mind to your family with the best in educational programming. To subscribe to our broadcast, read our blogs, or learn more, visit our website at learnmore.me. That’s Learnmore.me.