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Movement allows children to explore and thus opens up a window of learning through seeing, feeling, and touching new environments. The ability to move – to walk, jump, maintain balance, and play catch -- requires gross motor skills, which involve using the large muscles of the body.
Pediatric physical therapy focuses on helping children and teenagers acquire gross motor skills and/or improve the quality of those they already possess. At the Kireker Center for Child Development, we strive to assist all children in reaching their full potential, even those with physical limitations. Depending on our patients’ differing abilities, physical therapy aims to help each child reach his/her full potential, whether that is to walk, throw a ball, or transfer from a sitting to a standing position or from a wheelchair to a seat or bed.
A range of diseases or disorders can affect the development of a child’s gross motor skills. We evaluate and treat children from birth to age 21 with neuro-muscular disorders, genetic disorders, congenital deformities, orthopedic diseases, and multiple handicaps. Through physical therapy, we teach new skills and help children reach their gross motor developmental milestones. Some developmental delays can be treated or eliminated with early detection and therapy. Physical therapy can also restore the skills of children who have undergone surgery or suffered a stroke or an orthopedic or traumatic injury.
Because we are a multidisciplinary center, our physical therapists work closely with our physicians, occupational therapists, speech-language pathologists, and audiologists to ensure that your child’s specific needs are met. If your child needs further evaluation, we can refer him/her to a physiatrist, developmental pediatrician, orthopedic surgeon, neurologist, neurosurgeon, school psychologist, or other professionals in the community. We also offer specialized services for babies who have spent time in our neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) or another hospital’s NICU. Our physical therapists are always available to speak with child-study teams, teachers, and other education professionals.
Therapy for NICU Babies
The Kireker Center for Child Development’s pediatric physical therapists, occupational therapists, and speech-language pathologists are an integral part of the developmental team in The Valley Hospital’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). Our pediatric therapists are licensed and certified and have completed specific training in neonatal therapy.
Many babies who are born prematurely or with developmental concerns benefit from beginning physical therapy, occupational therapy, or oral-motor and feeding therapy within hours or days of their birth. Early intervention can help guide a baby toward his/her developmental milestones.
Our therapists work closely with the NICU’s neonatologists, nurses, and each baby’s parents to:
- use therapeutic handling and positioning, which may utilize specialized splinting by our occupational therapist
- begin oral-motor or feeding therapy for the baby
- transition the baby to outpatient services at the Kireker Center following discharge from the NICU
Our Physical Therapy Services
Our Physical Therapy Department is located on the first floor of the Kireker Center for Child Development. We evaluate and treat children with the following:
- neuro-muscular and neuro-degenerative disorders, including cerebral palsy and muscular dystrophy
- developmental delays caused by autism, PDD, and other conditions
- movement disorders
- genetic disorders, including Down syndrome, Fragile X syndrome, and others
- orthopedic disorders, including club foot
- orthopedic injuries
- traumatic injuries
We also offer these special services:
- infant massage
- neuro-developmental treatment
- ordering medical equipment (wheelchairs, walkers, strollers, bath chairs, commodes, etc.)
- acquisition and management of orthotics and prosthetics
- referrals to other health care professionals and community resources
All individual therapy sessions last one half-hour to one hour in duration. Most children come for therapy one or two times per week. Our therapy combines range-of-motion/stretching exercises, strengthening exercises, therapeutic exercise, and play activities to facilitate movement. Our physical therapy gym features LiteGait overhead body-supported treadmill training, stairs, treadmills, ramps, wedges, and a variety of benches, balls, and other equipment.
Our physical therapy team is composed of four physical therapists with more than 50 years of combined pediatric experience. All therapists are licensed through the New Jersey State Board of Physical Therapy and are NDT trained. We work exclusively with pediatric patients. Our team includes therapists who are doctorate- and master’s-level trained. Our certifications include:
- board-certified pediatric clinical specialist
- certified kinesiotaping practitioner
- certified infant massage practitioner
Frequently Asked Questions
Q.What do I need to bring with us when my child comes for a physical therapy evaluation?
A.Please come about 15 minutes early to fill out the necessary paperwork. If your child has had any previous tests, please bring the results and reports with you, if possible. For insurance purposes, bring any prescriptions, referral forms, pre-authorization forms, or co-payments that your individual policy requires.
Q.How should my child dress for an evaluation?
A.Your child should dress in comfortable, loose-fitting clothing. If your child walks, he/she should wear sneakers. If your daughter wears a skirt, please have her wear shorts underneath. During the evaluations of younger children, the clothing is often removed to allow for observation of how the body moves.
Q.What should we expect at the evaluation?
A.Your child’s evaluation will consist of an interview to collect his/her medical history, an observation, and an examination. The examination will vary based on his/her age and will contain standardized testing when appropriate.
Q.How long is a typical physical therapy session?
A.Individual therapy sessions last from a half-hour to one hour.
Q.What happens during a typical therapy session?
A.Depending on your child’s age and specific needs, your child may undergo a variety of stretching and strengthening exercises and some play activities to get him/her moving. You are welcome to attend the sessions, but we may try to transition your child to sessions without you if we feel this will benefit your child. Because we have other disciplines in our center – including audiology, occupational therapy, and speech-language therapy – your child may benefit from having other therapists involved in your child’s therapy.
Q.What will my child need to do at home to continue his/her therapy?
A.At-home exercises are crucial to your child’s therapy. You will be given exercises at your child’s evaluation, which will be periodically revised. How often your child must perform the exercises is based on his/her individual therapy.
Q.How long with my child’s entire physical therapy last?
Generally most children attend physical therapy sessions here either once or twice a week. The duration of your child’s therapy will depend on many factors, including the type of disorder//injury your child is experiencing, its severity, any medical issues present, insurance coverage, and what type of at-home therapy exercises are needed. Physical therapy can last for as little as two months or throughout the child’s lifetime.
If you think your child may benefit from physical therapy, we encourage you to call your child’s pediatrician, nurse practitioner, or other health care provider, or call us at the Kireker Center for Child Development at 201-612-1006.