The Role and Benefits of Pediatric Physical Therapy

In recognition of National Physical Therapy Month, we talked to Stephanie Gohman, PTA, Allison Breig, PT, MPT and Mollee Smith, PT, DPT, OCS , physical therapists at CHOC, who shared their expertise on the role of physical therapy and how it can benefit your child. The dedicated physical therapy team at CHOC is specially trained to provide the utmost quality, family-centered care to children of all ages and with the most complex conditions.

Q: What is the role of a physical therapist?

A: Physical therapists are experts in movement analysis and facilitate normal motor development while maximizing functional independence. We promote health and wellness in children in a clinic or community setting by way of screenings or evaluations to identify the focus of intervention. Pediatric physical therapists collaborate with medical, educational, rehabilitation specialists and families to promote optimal physical functioning based on the needs of each child. Physical therapy interventions can facilitate the best cognitive and physical development by addressing flexibility, strength, and energy efficiency with movement in order to optimize play and daily activities.

Q: When should my child see a physical therapist?

A: Any child who demonstrates limitations in or inability to perform normal age appropriate motor skills should be referred for a physical therapy consultation. This may follow an injury, surgery or complication from a medical condition. You should also consult a physical therapist when your child is not meeting the normal developmental milestones or if you would like to establish a fitness plan for injury prevention or weight management.

Q: What is unique about the physical therapy program at CHOC?

A: The CHOC Physical Therapy program provides family-centered care to meet the functional needs of each child. We empower children and families during therapy sessions through goal driven treatment plans. We work with children and their families to safely transition them from skilled therapy to community programs.

Our team is specially trained to work with kids of all ages and disabilities who may be experiencing challenges during various stages of their lifespan as a result of their chronic condition or injury.

Physical activity is different in children than it is in adults. Our team specializes in treatment techniques to keep kids engaged through fun and developmentally appropriate exercise and physical activities. We know how to challenge each child to optimize their growth and developmental potential.
Q: What are the most common injuries or conditions you see at CHOC?

A: Many of our therapists are certified clinical specialists who specialize in everything from the medically fragile child to the high functioning athlete attempting to return to competitive play after injury. Our program is comprehensive and covers many different conditions such as:  ACL injuries, acquired or traumatic brain injuries, cancer-related complications, cerebral palsy, concussions, Down syndrome, elbow fractures, juvenile arthritis conditions, knee pain, scoliosis, torticollis, and wound care.

Q: What are some preventive measures that kids can take to avoid injuries?

A: Move! With the growing availability of computers, ipads, and video games the concern for unhealthy behaviors is also on the rise. Keeping kids active encourages strength, flexibility, balance and coordination, all of which help prevent injuries and disease. A minimum of 60 minutes per day of moderate to vigorous exercise is recommended for optimal health and fitness. Children with disabilities and chronic conditions may need the help of a physical therapist to modify exercises or recommend specific activities for optimum fitness participation and mobility.

To learn more about about the CHOC Physical Therapy program, please visit:

For more information on physical activity guidelines, please visit:

5 thoughts on “The Role and Benefits of Pediatric Physical Therapy”

  1. I didn’t know that a physical therapist could be useful to a child. Now that I think about it, it seems kind of obvious that they would. Kids still get sick and have surgeries. They will even go to therapists for psychological concerns. It makes perfect sense that physical therapy would be a good place to assist the recovery process.

  2. It’s interesting how you said that some pediatricians focus on physical therapy by collaborating with their parents and other specialists. This seems like a great field to be in because kids are always going around getting into trouble and getting injured! In all seriousness though, it is good to know that there are people who specialize in keeping kids able to move and play like they want to.

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