What to Expect at Your Child’s First Physical Therapy Appointment

There are many reasons your child's physician may prescribe physical therapy. Your child could have a recent injury such as a broken arm that needs some special attention or a congenital disease that requires extra work to achieve developmental milestones. No matter the reason for the physical therapy referral, a parent is likely to be curious about what to expect from the appointment. A little heads up can go a long way to calm the nerves of a parent for their child's first PT visit.

Come Prepared

Therapists need to know the full picture of your child's health and medical history. Bringing a copy of your child's medical procedures, health history, adaptive equipment available, and medications can help streamline the process when you are filling out the initial paperwork. It is much easier to remember the details when you have time beforehand rather than feeling rushed in the waiting room with your child.

Questions

To begin the visit, you or your child will do a lot of the talking. Some common questions that a therapist will ask to aide them in developing the most effective plan of care for your child are:

  • How long has your child been having symptoms?
  • When were they diagnosed?
  • What activities does your child enjoy doing?
  • What are your child's interests?
  • Who are your child's caregivers and support system?
  • What are your goals for your child?
  • What are your child's personal goals?
  • What concerns do you have?
  • The frequency and duration of symptoms
  • What things make them feel better?
  • What things make them feel worse?
  • Have you noticed a change in your child's symptoms/behavior?

The Initial Evaluation

The first visit, the therapist will spend some time trying to get to know you and your child. After they have asked some initial questions, they will begin the physical evaluation. Your child's therapist will assess many different things including range of motion, muscle strength and tone, reflexes, balance, and coordination. Using the information you provided and what was collected during the assessment, the therapist will develop a plan of care individualized for your child and their specific needs.

The Plan of Care

Your therapist will discuss with you the plan of care for your child. Your physical therapist will provide information on how frequently and for approximately how long your child will need PT to reach his/her goals. An overview of the types of treatment techniques, what deficits will be addressed, and how it will help achieve functional goals gives you the picture of your child's physical therapy.

Treatment and Home Exercise

Various treatment techniques will be used to help your child improve. Stretching exercises, muscle strengthening, neuromuscular re-education, balance, and gait training are all methods of improving your child's functional ability. The therapy session will be designed to be fun and engaging for your child.  One session might involve playing on large stability balls and the next may have a fun obstacle course. In addition, the therapist will likely use hands-on techniques to work with your child such as manual stretching and joint mobilizations.

Along with in person therapy sessions, a home program will be provided. Following a home exercise program in addition to regular therapy sessions will allow your child to progress quicker and help them attain goals with greater success.

Ask Questions

Never be afraid to ask questions, especially when it comes to the care of your child. Our therapists are happy to answer any questions you may have and help to make this a wonderful experience for you and your child.