What is physiotherapy?

Physiotherapy (PT) helps with the development, rehabilitation, and improvement of movement skills and performance. Physiotherapists may work on gross motor skills such as sitting, standing, and walking, as well as improvement in flexibility, strength, and endurance.

At Morneau Shepell’s Children’s Support Solutions, our therapists specialize in working with children with motor difficulties, high-performance athletes and children with weight-related concerns.

For example, a child might work with a therapist in a “gross motor” gym by walking across a beam and doing core strengthening to improve their balance or crawl through a ball pit to build strength, endurance and body awareness.

For an infant with torticollis/plagiocephaly (neck tightness and head shape challenges), the parents and child will meet with the therapist to work on stretching and positioning exercises. The parents can learn how to position the child for day-to-day activities like sitting in a car seat and sleeping. A child learning to walk can be taken through exercises to encourage standing and develop the skills required for walking. Parents may be given a home program to work on these skills at home.

In all cases, the physiotherapist takes the client through a tailor-made program to address their most important needs.

Physiotherapy is often used in conjunction with other therapies, such as occupational therapy or speech-language pathology. For example, if a child is learning how to print and is slouching at the table, it can be a sign of poor core strength—physiotherapy can help with the core strength while occupational therapy teaches printing.

Who can benefit from physiotherapy?

Physiotherapy can benefit anyone who has difficulties with their physical skills; Morneau Shepell’s Children’s Support Solutions often helps infants and children with:

  • Gross motor delay
  • Autism Spectrum Disorder
  • Cerebral Palsy
  • Developmental Coordination Disorder
  • Down Syndrome
  • Spina Bifida
  • Acquired Brain Injury
  • Hypotonia
  • Muscular Dystrophy or other neuromuscular challenges
  • Torticollis/Plagiocephaly
  • Other genetic disorders
  • Weight challenges
  • Athletes

Physiotherapy helps a child function at their maximum potential.

What role can parents play?

Parents and caregivers can be very involved in PT. They are often present in the room with the child during therapy, and frequently talk to the therapist about how the child is doing at home and school, and if anything has changed.

Some PT programs may have a component that parents and caregivers can implement at home. If so, the caregiver will be carefully instructed in each exercise and may also be permitted to videotape the therapist treating the child. Having this as a reference for their own learning helps to further support the caregiver as they apply the home program.

How does Morneau Shepell use physiotherapy?

Morneau Shepell’s Children’s Support Solutions is family-centered and interdisciplinary. This means that we always start with the questions, “What will work for this child?” and “What is right for the family?” If physiotherapy is deemed to be useful, then the physiotherapist will propose a treatment plan.

However, we do not think solely in terms of physiotherapy; we think about the mix of therapies that will help the child. In the Morneau Shepell model, the therapists are not just under one roof; they plan together, train together and work together on a client file. It is an integrated approach to helping the family.

How are therapists trained and certified?

Physiotherapists in Canada hold a master’s degree or equivalent in physiotherapy and are licensed by provincial colleges or orders according to each province’s certification standards, which may include specific continuing education requirements and certification by a national board exam.

PTs may have additional training in particular techniques; for example:

  • Cuveas Medek Exercises
  • Kinesiotaping and other taping techniques
  • Neuro-Developmental Treatment (NDT)
  • Strength training for children

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