Your child’s first physical therapy appointment has been scheduled and you’ve filled out all of the paperwork, but you’re nervous. You may know what physical therapy is – you or a family member may have even received physical therapy following an injury or illness. But how will a physical therapist get your child to do the work needed? Your child’s first physical therapy appointment should ease your mind and answer a lot of your questions. Here’s how to prepare and what you can expect.
How to Prepare for Your Child’s First Physical Therapy Appointment
The therapist will pick your brain a little bit, so you’ll need to plan to be in the room with your child and to make other arrangements for siblings. You will discuss your child’s developmental history, so be sure to bring notes with you about developmental milestones such as sitting up, crawling, walking, etc., and at what age your child reached them. The therapist will also want to discuss what concerns you have, so bring notes about these, as well, if it helps you to organize your thoughts. Information about your child’s history and your concerns helps the therapist customize your child’s treatment plan. Be sure to dress your child in comfortable clothing that is conducive to movement, and bring any special equipment your child uses.
What Happens During the First Physical Therapy Appointment
Once your brain has been “picked”, the therapist will observe your child doing things such as playing with toys, standing, sitting, moving, and making transitions between activities. Although this portion of the appointment is structured, it will seem like play to the child. The therapist will use assessments that measure your child against what is typical for peers of the same age and make projections about what you can expect your child to achieve through physical therapy.
While the therapist is observing your child, watch both the therapist and your child, because it gives you the opportunity to see how well they interact. Often, a stronger connection between the therapist and child leads to better results, which makes sense: a child who is having fun tends to forget how hard they are working!
After the therapist has had a chance to observe your child, you will work together to come up with a treatment program for your child. It’s typical to reassess a child’s abilities and review progress every six months, but the important thing is for both you and your child’s therapist to consistently be on the same page about your child’s goals and how to reach them.
For the first appointment, you’ll stay with your child the whole time, but that may not be the case going forward. Many parents find that their children work better if they are not in the room during the therapy session! Ideally, a child happily goes back for “playtime” with a familiar, fun person who has lots of different toys (without even a look back) while you have a few minutes to relax, but it will depend on both your child’s temperament and the rapport they develop with the therapist.
And last but not least, relax! We’re here not only to help your child but to support YOU in helping your child reach his or her goals.
Unsure if your child needs physical therapy?
Developed over two decades of treating children, Kid’s Creek Therapy offers a FREE online GAP Assessment for parents with concerns. By answering a series of simple questions, you’ll instantly receive a score that will help you understand if your child may have an issue needing closer evaluation. Click here for the free GAP Assessment or book a free consultation with one of our therapists.