October is…
National Physical Therapy Month!

Developmental milestones are exciting steps in a child’s journey from a baby to a toddler and a toddler to a child, but they can also create a lot of stress and anxiety when parents feel like an expected skill is lagging way behind. Physical delays are often the first to be noted in a child’s development, with crawling and walking taking center stage as the “biggest” signs of physical accomplishment. When these skills don’t happen when the timeline we downloaded from an online search says they should have, worry creeps in. You may wonder: Does my child need physical therapy (PT)?

Emily Hagan, one of CTC’s very own experts in the field of PT, is here to shed some light on some common issues seen in a child’s physical development.

Could your child benefit from Physical Therapy?

By: Emily Hagan, PT/L

Many people think of pediatric physical therapy as a service that helps our children during recovery of an orthopedic injury, such as a broken bone.  However, pediatric physical therapy offers a much wider range of benefits for a variety of concerns. As children grow and develop, their postural alignment and gait pattern can impact the way their bones grow, how strong or flexible their muscles become, and the way they move through the natural environments they encounter.

Physical therapy can be beneficial for correcting a variety of functional impairments among our children.  Some of the most common concerns that physical therapy can improve upon include, but are not limited to:

W-sitting – when a child sits with their legs and feet resting behind their body it causes a twist in the long bones of the legs.  Children sit this way because it provides them with “kickstands” that prevent them from having to use their balance reactions and prevent them from having to activate their core (abdominal and spinal) muscles.  W-sitting can also lead to an in-toeing gait pattern, which often causes frequent falls.

Rounded spine with forward head – we should be observing our children sitting up tall with an erect spine.  It isn’t until we are much older that poor postural habits should begin to show!  Poor posture among children commonly indicates core weakness. During a physical therapy evaluation, children with poor posture frequently display other deficits and impairments, such as tight pelvic muscles, weak shoulders and upper extremities, and tight hamstring muscles.

Abnormal walking pattern – this can be observed as your child walking on their toes, holding their body weight forward, in-toeing (pigeon walk) or out-toeing (duck walk), frequent falls, or trailing along walls and other surfaces to maintain stability.

Balance deficits – this is typically first noticed by parents as their child falls more frequently than their peers, appears as very clumsy, bumps into obstacles or other people, or cannot maintain balance while navigating through their environments.  At 24 months, a child should be able to maintain standing balance while kicking a stationary ball. By 3 years, maintain standing balance while kicking a rolling ball. By 4 years, standing on each leg for 4-8 seconds. By 6-9 years, standing on each leg for 10 seconds using some arm and trunk movement to maintain balance.  And by 10+ years, standing on each leg for 10 seconds with minimal/no body movements to maintain balance with arms relaxed at their sides.

Babies who tilt their head to one side or present with abnormalities of their head shape – torticollis and plagiocephaly are increasingly prevalent (see our article about plagiocephaly and torticollis).  Early physical therapy intervention has proven to be effective in treating these conditions.  Parents often wonder how physical therapy can help a baby’s head shape. Because the neck muscles attach at the base of the skull, our physical therapists can show you how to hold and carry your baby to encourage strong neck muscle development, which in turn slowly begins to round the skull.

Lastly, if something physical just seems “off” or abnormal with your child, our physical therapists are happy to provide an evaluation to assess for impairments that may be impacting their function.  Early skilled physical therapy intervention can make a big difference for our children!

Meet our fantastic PTs!

Emily Hagan, PT/L

Emily Hagan graduated with a Doctor of Physical Therapy degree from Governors State University, after earning a Bachelor of Arts degree in Interdisciplinary Studies. She began her career as a pediatric physical therapist in 2010, gaining experience working at Lurie Children’s Hospital.

Emily received monthly mentoring with an experienced orthotist for 14 months in order to increase her knowledge on the use of orthotics. She later ventured into adult rehabilitation, gaining expanded knowledge in her career. Her work experience includes settings in hospitals, nursing homes, clinics, schools and early intervention. She has training in neurodevelopmental treatment, myofascial release, graded motor imagery, gait training, knee injury prevention, respiratory control, and sensory-based strategies. She achieved certification in the TheraSuit Method Pediatric Intensive Therapy.

Emily has provided treatment to patients with a variety of diagnoses including neuropathic pain, oncology, brachial plexus injuries, post surgeries, juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, cerebral palsy, torticollis, plagiocephaly, sensory processing disorder, Down syndrome, and other developmental, genetic and neuromuscular disorders. She has presented on graded motor imagery, Hoffa’s disease, functional neuroanatomy and sensory systems, walking speed as a physical performance measure, and home exercise programs.

Emily believes that families should be involved in the therapy process, and looks forward to working with you and your child.

Beryl Jardine, PTA/L

My name is Beryl Jardine and I have been practicing as a PTA for 7 years.  I primarily work with children but I also continue to work with adults to maintain my orthopedic training.

I was initially working in International Business and worked in that arena for 10 years prior to having children.  Once my children entered grammar school, I decided to go back to school to pursue a degree as a Physical Therapy Assistant.  I chose this field because I wanted to give back by helping others. I find it very rewarding to be part of helping patients progress towards their independence and achieving their goals.  I especially love working with kids because they’re so inspiring to me. I’m constantly in awe of their spirit and determination despite their struggles. My goal every day is to make a small difference in my kiddos’ lives so that they are able to play and be as functional as possible.

In my spare time,  I enjoy road cycling and practicing yoga. I feel that both compliment my work so that I am able to get on the ground (and most importantly get back up) with my kiddos.   I also enjoy spending time outdoors in nature. I have two daughters that are in college. The oldest is a sophomore at Bradley University and the youngest is a Freshman at Illinois State University. Both girls are in the nursing program.

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Children Therapy Connections is committed to providing effective intervention to children diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder. If your child does not have diagnosis but you suspect delays with development, do not wait, call today for a free screening. 708-226-9200.   

We proudly serve the Chicagoland area, including Orland Park, Tinley Park, Mokena, Oak Forest, Palos Areas, Homer Glen, Lemont, New Lenox, Crestwood, Oak Lawn, and more.