Physiotherapy for Developmental Delay
Developmental paediatrics (child development) is concerned with the way children grow and mature from birth to adulthood. Physiotherapists are mainly concerned with the development of body postures and large movements (gross motor skills). However, they need to understand the way children develop their skills, including hearing, speech, vision, fine movements, social behaviour and play in order to assess or treat a baby or child with suspected developmental problems.
Health visitors will very often pick up on any delays in your child’s development during developmental checks. If there are any concerns regarding a baby or toddler’s motor and sensory development they will generally be referred for physiotherapy. Ideally a child should start physiotherapy as early as possible. Physiotherapy can help babies develop from an early age by placing then in beneficial positions and encouraging normal patterns of movement.
Some examples of developmental disorders include:
There are many different terms used to describe co-ordination difficulties such as developmental co-ordination disorder (D.C.D.), dyspraxia, perceptual–motor dysfunction and clumsy child syndrome. Children with co-ordination problems often have difficulty processing information from their sensory systems e.g. vision, hearing, speech and balance. This is known as Sensory Integration Dysfunction (S.I.D.).
Physiotherapy can help children improve their gross motor skills by helping them to strengthen weak muscles, learn patterns of movement and integrate their sensory systems. Although dyspraxia is not curable a child’s gross motor skills and confidence often improves dramatically with appropriate physiotherapy treatment.
Hypotonia literally means low muscle tone. Therefore, hypotonia is really a symptom rather than a specific diagnosis. It can be caused by a variety of conditions. Its severity can vary from mild to severe hypotonia depending on the cause. If you suspect your child has hypotonia it is important to get an assessment from your GP to rule out any serious conditions. Benign Congenital Hypotonia ( B.C.H.) literally means ‘a harmless case of poor muscle tone since birth’.
Children with B.C.H. will typically have the following symptoms:
Low muscle tone.
Hypermobility of joints.
Poor head control.
Delayed physical milestones.
Reluctance to lie on their tummy to play.
Rolling or bottom shuffling instead of crawling.
Hypotonic babies will need extra stimulation to use their muscles in the correct way. Older children may need exercises to improve their posture, muscle strength and co-ordination.
Cerebral Palsy (C.P.) is a condition primarily affecting a child’s motor development. It is caused by damage to the brain before, during or shortly after birth.
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