Physical Therapy Month happens every year in October to provide an opportunity to raise awareness about the benefits of physical therapy and the role professionals play in delivering life-changing early intervention treatment. The team of physical therapists at The Warren Center, a nonprofit agency providing professional evaluations, therapy services and support to children with developmental delays and disabilities –is an essential part of any early intervention treatment plan.
"Physical therapists play a vital role in early intervention – they help families with their child's development and ability to participate in age-appropriate and meaningful activities," says Amy Spawn, CEO of The Warren Center. "They use their training and skills specifically related to motor function and medical/healthcare science to provide an important contribution to the early intervention team."
Early intervention (EI) is the process of delivering services and support to children from birth to three years old and their families who may have or be at risk for a developmental delay, disability, or health condition that may affect development. The purpose of EI is to reduce the impact of a disability or delay by addressing identified needs of young children across five developmental areas: cognitive development, communication development, physical development, including vision and hearing, social or emotional development and adaptive development. As a part of early intervention services, families may work with a team of childhood intervention professionals, including physical therapists (PTs). Physical therapy may be the only kind of early intervention service a child needs or it may be combined with a coordinated, multidisciplinary program. The need for physical therapy is determined as part of the child's Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP) through a family-centered care philosophy. Physical therapists collaborate with the team, exchange information with the family, and integrate interventions into everyday routines, activities, and locations.
Physical therapy helps children with disabilities in many ways. Some developmental achievements developed during physical therapy include the following:
- Learn to crawl so the child can move from place to place, get to their toys or follow their parents around the house.
- Learn how to hold, explore, and play with toys of different sizes, shapes, and weights.
- Learn to sit so the child can play on the floor with their siblings and friends.
- Improve balance so the child can walk on the grass or in the sand without falling.
- Develop strength and get fit so they can keep up with their friends. Physical therapy explicitly helps children develop the coordination to run, climb, slide, or jump in their backyard or local park.
- Helps the child learn how to build, create, and participate in self-care activities.
Physical therapy also helps families with children who have developmental delays or disabilities understand how to meet their child's needs. Participation in physical therapy allows families to develop opportunities for their children to develop motor skills. The Physical Therapy team at The Warren Center also ensures children receive therapy in their natural routines and environments. The PT will conduct a therapy session by using the stairs in the family’s home or apartment complex to help the child learn to use stairs. Or the therapist may use the family’s couch to teach the child how to pull up to stand. By conducting therapy sessions in the child’s natural environment, it will help children birth to age three generalize experiences and make parents feel more confident that they have the tools necessary to help their child daily.
Additionally, Physical Therapists can help families find resources in their community suited to meet their child's needs. The support of a Physical Therapist can help families with their child's transition to preschool. Often times, PTs can help families make decisions on adaptative equipment such as walkers, standing frames and wheelchairs to determine when and if needed by the child.
The CDC estimates one in six children have intellectual or physical disabilities or delays. In Dallas County alone, over 102,000 children have a developmental disability. The period between birth to five years is a time of rapid development. The earliest possible intervention is critical due to the accelerated brain development during these first years of life. Early childhood intervention programs have been shown to yield benefits in academic achievement, behavior, educational progression and attainment, and labor market success.
The Warren Center Early Childhood Intervention (ECI) program serves children, ages birth to three years old, with developmental delays or disabilities. The Warren Center's team of early childhood specialists, therapists, social workers, and other professionals conduct evaluations and provide services to children and their families at home where they live, learn and play. The Warren Center's team of highly skilled therapists is ready to help children with developmental delays and disabilities reach their full potential with early childhood intervention. To request services, parents are encouraged to fill out a form on the nonprofit's website or call 972-490-9055 to learn more about Early Childhood Intervention services.