Even though children are only small human beings who should experience an uncomplicated life busy with exploring and learning about the world and everything in it, it doesn’t mean that they are immune to health issues.
Most, if not all, children will experience many different health problems throughout their childhood. These health problems usually tend to be mild, come and go, and do not interfere with their daily life. But, unfortunately, for many children affected by chronic conditions this is not the situation. These conditions affect their daily life and development and they must adapt. Taking medication, making use of walking aids or being unable to play with their friends from a very early time in their lives, if not from birth. An unwanted reality to deal with and understand for the child, as well as for the parents.
What are Paediatric Conditions?
Paediatric conditions are conditions that affect a child between the ages of 0 – 18, thus anything from birth to the age of 18 years. Many of these conditions are congenital. This means it is a disease or disability present from birth, either inherited or as a result of socioeconomics or environmental factors. Only some may be obvious at the time of birth while other may only manifest later in childhood, adolescence or later in life.
The list of congenital conditions is extensive and affects all body systems (cardiovascular, metabolic, etc.). Some common chronic paediatric conditions include:
- Cystic Fibrosis (affects pulmonary system)
- Autism (developmental disorder)
- Cerebral Palsy (neuromuscular)
- Muscular Dystrophy (neuromuscular)
- Spina Bifida (neural tube defect)
Managing Paediatric Conditions
Many paediatric conditions are curable or can be managed reasonably well, with treatments including surgery, medication, and physical therapy. Physical therapy (also known as exercise therapy and in SA termed Biokinetics) would be considered the least invasive and most natural way to assist with physical rehabilitation. The child does not only benefit physically from such therapy but mentally too. Physical therapy can also assist with the development of skills that might be delayed or lacking due to developmental conditions, disease or disability. These could include fine and gross motor skills, as well as functional mobility skills. This in turn will provide them with more self-confidence to be more independent when it comes to activities of daily living.
How can we as Biokineticists help ?
Once a child has been evaluated and their specific needs have been identified, an individualised rehabilitative program is designed. Depending on the child’s needs the program may involve exercises/treatment for some, if not all, of the following components:
The end goal of working and gaining improvements on these components is to assist the child in achieving gross motor skills and functional mobility skills considered acceptable for their age or their situation (taking into consideration developmental disorders, disabilities and diseases).
Benefits of Biokinetic Therapy
The benefits are endless and vary depending on the condition/situation. Some benefits include (but not limited):
- Improved function of muscles aiding breathing and oxygen consumption
- Reduced spasticity and increase in range of motion
- Reduction in body fat and increase in muscle mass
- Improved coordination/skill of movements
- Improved sense of wellness, body image and capacity to perform ADL
But children often don’t understand why they need to do therapy. And the therapy programs developed for adults would certainly bore them. So, at Fish and Field Biokineticists we design programs that are fun and interactive, often play-like, involving different equipment, shapes and colours. Therapy sessions are also generally kept shorter (depending on the child’s age) to make sure that they don’t lose focus and become disengaged.
How do you know when your child needs Physical Therapy?
Here are some signs to look out for, for those not so obvious situations:
- They tend to use one side of their body significantly more
- They walk on their toes or have an unnatural gait
- They trip or fall often
- They struggle to perform gross motor skills such as jumping or skipping
- They have difficulty keeping up with their peers during play
- They complain about pain when performing gross motor skills
We would love to help your little one on their road to recovery or improving their quality of life. We offer both land-based therapy and aqua-therapy (a definite win with the kids and provides a whole different range of benefits as well). For more information or to find out how we can help your child, please contact us.
Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta. 2019. 5 Big Benefits of a Pediatric Physical Therapist. Available at: https://www.choa.org/medical-services/wellness-and-preventive-care/parent-resources/all/benefits-of-pediatric-physical-therapists. [Accessed 25 July 2019].
Durstine JL, and Moore, GE. ACSM’s Exercise Management for Persons with Chronic Diseases and Disabilities. Second Edition. United States of America: American College of Sports Medicine; 2002.
Genetic Alliance South Africa. Congenital Disorders. Available at: https://www.geneticalliance.org.za/about/congenital-disorders/. [Accessed 25 July 2019].
NAPA. 2018. Benefits of Paediatric Physical Therapy. Available at: https://www.napacenter.org/benefits-pediatric-physical-therapy/. [Accessed 25 July 2019].
PT Solutions. 2017. The importance of Pediatric Physical Therapy. Available at: https://ptsolutions.com/the-importance-of-pediatric-physical-therapy/. [Accessed 25 July 2019].