Physical Therapy versus Personal Training: Key Differences and What’s Best for Your Child

Let me start by explaining what a physical therapist and a personal trainer do and who they can help.

Who is a physical therapist?physical therapy or personal training for your child

A physical therapist is a board certified movement expert. They analyze abnormal movement patterns and, through tests and measures, determine what impairments are causing those patterns. Physical therapists may use a combination of manual therapy, neuromuscular re-education, modalities, and exercises to address those impairments and improve function.

Who is a personal trainer?

The American College of Sports Medicine defines a ACSM certified personal trainer as a person who “is qualified to plan and implement exercise programs for healthy individuals or those who have medical clearance to exercise.”[1] They give advice on general health and wellness tips, personalizing it to each client. Personal trainers may also help you progress your exercise routine.

Which is right for you?

Now that we know what each is and what they do, who is best suited to help you? Well, it depends. If you are a healthy individual who has been cleared for exercise, a personal trainer can help you stick to and progress an exercise plan. When you have a physical impairment that is affecting your function, head to a physical therapist to receive treatment.

While physical therapy may be what’s best for your child at one point in his life, this may change over time. I know many physical therapists that may discharge a child from their care due to completion of goals and return to function, but who recommend continued exercises to maintain those goals. A personal trainer may be helpful at this time to follow through with these recommendations.  Transitioning from physical therapy services to a personal trainer too early can result in return of impairment or injury.

Please consult with a health care professional prior to change in care.

NSPT offers physical therapy services in BucktownEvanstonHighland ParkLincolnwoodGlenview and Des Plaines. If you have questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140 and speak to one of our Family Child Advocates today!

Resources: [1] ACSM webpage. “http://certification.acsm.org/acsm-certified-personal-trainer. “ Accessed on 2/1/2015.

why I love being a pediatric physical therapist

The Top 5 Reasons Why I Love Being a Pediatric Physical Therapist

October is National Physical Therapy Month and an important time of the year to promote physical therapy as a profession. There are many areas physical therapists can specialize in: orthopedics, neurology, pediatrics, women’s health, sports, cardiovascular and pulmonary physical therapy, and geriatrics. So why did I choose to specialize in children’s physical therapy?

These are the top 5 reasons I love being a pediatric physical therapist:

  1. I sing, I dance, and I laugh, daily. Being a pediatric physical therapist is as much about creativity as clinicalwhy I love being a pediatric physical therapist competency. We have to use our knowledge of human movement and development to detect early health and mobility problems in infants, children, and adolescents with a variety of injuries, disorders, and diseases. But at the same time, we have to make exercises and the whole therapy process FUN! I spend a majority of my work day dancing, singing, and jumping right along with my clients. Studies have shown that the simple act of smiling can bring about happiness. I can definitely attest to that!
  2. I don’t have to choose. Being a specialist in the field of physical therapy means clinicians must focus on specific body systems or medical diagnoses. For example, orthopedic specialists often diagnose and treat disorders of the musculoskeletal system, and neurological specialists often concentrate on neurological conditions such as brain injury, spinal cord injury, or Parkinson’s. Meanwhile, so much goes into a child’s development that pediatric physical therapists don’t have to choose. We often work with musculoskeletal injuries, neurological insults, as well as cardiopulmonary abnormalities during development. In planning and carrying out treatment for a variety of conditions such as cerebral palsy, adolescent sports injuries, and cystic fibrosis, we don’t have to choose between different systems of the body.
  3. I am still learning. Every stage of children’s development, from the typical and atypical to the cognitive and physical, fascinates me. What is awesome about being a specialist in children’s development is that I have to be constantly up to date on the latest research on children. With the advances in modern medicine come a new assortment of complications and need for therapeutic interventions. In working alongside other pediatric healthcare professionals such as behavioral analysts, speech therapists, pediatricians, neuropsychologists, and occupational therapists, I gain invaluable insight into every aspect of the development of children. Every age, diagnosis, and milestone presents another learning opportunity.
  4. I am proud of what I do. There are certainly days when the most that I accomplish is a pile of paperwork. Yet rarely is there a day where I feel like I wasted my time. Sure, I get my share of crying babies, screaming toddlers, temperamental teenagers, and challenging parents. But at the end of the day, the frustrating parts of my work are always completely washed away when I see the excited faces of first time walkers, proud parents, and supportive coworkers. The fact that my work directly contributed to these newfound skills in others makes me take pride in what I do.
  5. I am proud of what others do. Children are an exceptionally inspiring clientele to work with. In this setting, every milestone feels like it deserves a standing ovation. Behind every first step and every new skill, is the hard work of the parents and children I work with. Exercising IS hard. The recovery process is sometimes a slow one. With kids, no small victory goes unnoticed. I have witnessed many children’s first steps, and I was right next to their parents beaming with pride. You know that feeling when you learned to ride a bicycle for the first time without training wheels? I get to see kids and parents experiencing something like that, every day.

Being a pediatric physical therapist means I encourage children to move, to grow, and to become independent. Really, they make my job easy, because they motivate me too.

Are you interested in becoming a pediatric physical therapist? Click here to learn more about our Physical Therapy Student Fieldwork Program.

Bayley II

Understanding Physical Therapy Outcome Measurements: The Bayley Scales of Infant Development

The Bayley Scales of Infant Development was revised in 1993 and is now known as The Bayley II. This assessment measures not just fine and gross motor skills (such as the PDMS-II), but also monitors mental and cognitive performance as well. The Bayley II is a comprehensive and reliable tool used to measure skills and behavior in children from 0 to 3 years.

The motor portion of the test looks at both fine and gross motor skills, including manipulatory skills, large muscle Bayley IIcoordination, dynamic movement, postural imitation, and stereognosis. The test is used to detect developmental delay and to monitor a child’s developmental progress. The items are arranged by degree of difficulty and uses a pass/fail system for scoring. So how is this test different from the other exams we use to monitor children birth to 3 years old?

Advantages and Limitations of the Bayley II:

Advantages of the Bayley II:

  • Most widely used tool to determine developmental level of infants
  • Most widely utilized assessment in infant research
  • Comprehensive psychometric properties
  • Standardized on a nationally representative sample
  • Takes 20-60 minutes to complete

Limitations of the Bayley II:

  • No sub-scores for individual tests to quantify specific strengths and needs
  • A credit/no credit binary scoring system does not allow a child to be credited for emerging tasks
  • Cognitive items depend on fine motor performance
  • Quality of movement is hard to assess
  • Limited reliability and validity

Physical therapists mostly use the motor subset of the Bayley Scale, assessing gross and fine motor development, and skill acquisition. The Bayley II has been norm-referenced, and proven to be reliable and valid. It is relatively easy to administer and has been helpful in research and physical monitoring related to children with suspected delay.

Does your infant or toddler have special needs? Or do you have more questions about the physical development of your preschooler? Come to see one of our specialists!

the Bruininks-Oseretsky Test of Motor Proficiency, second edition (BOT-2)

Understanding Physical Therapy Outcome Measurements: The Bruininks-Oseretsky Test of Motor Proficiency, Second Edition (BOT-2)

Previous physical therapy blogs have explained outcome measurements used to assess gross motor development in infants and children up to age 5, including the Peabody Developmental Motor Scale, second edition and the Alberta Infant Motor Scale. When children age out of either the PDMS-2 or the AIMS, one standardized assessment option physical therapists have is the Bruininks-Oseretsky Test of Motor Proficiency, second edition (BOT-2). The BOT-2 can be used to evaluate a wide variety of fine and gross motor skills for children, teenagers and young adults 4-21 years of age. This is a test that can also be used by occupational therapists, psychologists, adaptive physical education teachers, special education teachers and educational diagnosticians.

The BOT-2 contains a total of 8 subtests that look at both fine and gross motor functioning. When certain subtests are combined, they can give more specific information regarding the child’s Fine Manual Control, Manual Coordination, Body Coordination, or Strength and Agility. Administering all 8 subtests can allow the physical therapist to obtain a Total Motor Composite looking at the child’s overall performance with fine and gross motor functioning.

Below is a description of the subtests most commonly used by physical therapists in BOT-2 testing:

  • Bilateral Coordination: This section of the BOT-2 looks at a child’s control with tasks requiring movement ofthe Bruininks-Oseretsky Test of Motor Proficiency, second edition (BOT-2) both sides of the body. Tasks in this section will require the child to move his arms and legs from the same and opposite sides of the body together, in sequence, or in opposition.
  • Balance: The balance subtest evaluates the child’s moving and stationary balance. Tasks are completed with a variety of challenges to the balance systems, such as while on one foot, on a balance beam, or with eyes closed.
  • Running Speed and Agility: This section of the test looks at a child’s maximum running speed, running and changing directions, as well as stationary and dynamic hopping and jumping skills.
  • Upper-Limb Coordination: This subtest is used to assess the child’s ability to coordinate arm and hand movements and visual tracking of the task. The child is required to demonstrate skills such as catching, throwing and dribbling a tennis ball with one or both hands.
  • Strength: In the strength section of testing, the child is required to perform tasks designed to evaluate strength in the core, arms and legs. Strength is assessed in both static positions as well as with dynamic movements.

Based on the child’s presenting concerns, a physical therapist may evaluate the child using just a few or all of these subtests. The child’s performance on the BOT-2 will allow the physical therapist to identify areas of strength and areas of need in regards to the child’s gross motor functioning, and can therefore help to guide treatment. Because the BOT-2 has both age and sex-specific normative data, this test will help the physical therapist determine how the child is performing compared to peers his age. The BOT-2 can be re-administered periodically in order to monitor progress in the child’s functioning and performance with gross motor skills.

If you have concerns with your child’s performance in any of the categories listed above, click here to get scheduled with one of our pediatric physical therapists!

References:
Bruininks, Robert H., and Brett D. Bruininks. Bruininks-Oseretsky Test Motor Proficiency. 2nd ed. Minneapolis: Pearson, 2005. Print.

Girl with headache

The Role of the Physical Therapist in Post-Concussion Management

 

 

In our blog on Signs of Concussion in Youth Athletes, it became evident that a concussion can result in a wide variety of negative signs and symptoms. Following such an injury, many young athletes are eager to return to their sport. However, complete physical and mental rest are the best things to help the brain recover, and are absolutely necessary during the first 24 hours following a concussion. A physical therapist can be an integral member of the child’s concussion management team in preparing the child to return to sport, or in helping to address impairments resulting from the concussion that may be limiting the child’s school or daily functioning. Below is a list of interventions a physical therapist may be able to provide to a child who suffered a concussion injury:

  • Girl with headacheManagement of neck pain or cervicogenic headache: A cervicogenic headache is one that is caused by injury or tightness in the neck muscles or due to limitations in mobility of the neck joints. Since these structures attach to your skull, impairments there can result in headaches. Your physical therapist can help with manual therapy and exercises to increase mobility of these structures in order to alleviate headaches.
  • Balance and coordination training: It is very common to have balance or coordination difficulties following a concussion. A physical therapist can help to re-train and strengthen these systems in order to restore function.
  • Graded return to physical activity: When your child has been cleared by the pediatrician to return to physical activity, the physical therapist can help with a gradual return to activity while closely monitoring concussion symptoms. It is important to ease back into exercise starting with light aerobic activities before participating in moderate or intense physical activities or sport-specific training.
  • Gradual return to specific sport: Once the athlete has returned to aerobic exercise with no worsening of symptoms, the physical therapist can then begin to introduce sport-specific training drills and gradual return to practice and competition.

It is important to note that your child should be closely monitored by your pediatrician or primary care physician initially following the injury, as well as frequently throughout your child’s course of treatment. Your physical therapist should also update your pediatrician with your child’s symptoms and response with return to physical activity. Please contact North Shore Pediatric Therapy to schedule an appointment with one of our physical therapists if your child has recently suffered a concussion or continues to suffer from post-concussion impairments.

physical therapy for autism

Physical Therapy for Children with Autism

 

 

 

Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) is a diagnosis that describes kids with significant social, communicative, and behavioral challenges. While the diagnosis is mostly associated with difficulty with communication, there are also common physical issues experienced by children with ASD.

Some children with autism are not diagnosed until they are older, though retrospective studies have shown gross motor discrepancies in babies and toddlers who were later diagnosed to be on the spectrum. With so much treatment emphasis placed on their social and language impairments, physical limitations only become more amplified in these children as they age. Children with ASD can have trouble with a number of large postural tasks, such as sitting, walking, running, jumping, and balance. Studies have shown the prevalence of low muscle tone (hypotonia), toe-walking, ankle stiffness, motor apraxia, and increased motor stereotypes in children with autism. Hypotonia is the most common motor symptom, affecting up to 51% of these children.

How can physical therapists help children on the autism spectrum?

  1. Collaboration: Having a child on the autism spectrum (click here to view our autism infographic) can be challenging for parents. Limited social, behavioral, speech, and motor skills can lead to difficulties both at home and at school. With balance, coordination, and poor motor control at play, it is important for physical therapists to collaborate with other professionals involved in a child’s care. It is also important for physical therapists to contribute to the conversations involving parents and therapists. Physical therapists can address a child’s balance and postural control to encourage improved endurance and attention with school time activities. Knowing a child’s sensory processing needs and behavioral tendencies helps physical therapists make effective goals to make the most gains for a child with ASD associated gross motor delay.
  2. Education/Resources: Parents may not understand the link between physical performance and behavioral responses. A child with gait changes due to sensory-seeking behaviors or a child with poor balance due to decreased motor control will have a hard time participating in play and social skills. As some children are diagnosed years after gait deviations or musculoskeletal compensations are in place, parents also rely on physical therapists to provide information and resources for their child’s orthopedic or developmental needs. Physical therapists can direct parents to orthotists, equipment, or community sports programs specialized for their child with ASD.
  3. Therapeutic Play/Socialization: A huge focus of therapeutic exercises for children with ASD is to encourage large quality movements and age-appropriate play. For example, a child who walks on his toes will need exercises to increase ankle mobility and calf flexibility. A child who has a hard time holding his trunk upright during school will need exercises for postural control. Some children may have a hard time coordinating their limbs to participate in age-appropriate skills, such as hopping on one foot or skipping. Physical therapists help these kids gain more confidence in the skills they need in the future to navigate different environments and perform challenging tasks in the community as adults. Pediatric physical therapists often design treatment sessions where movements that hinder social participation are reduced and movements that lead to independence are encouraged.

New research on toddlers and preschoolers with autism found that children with better motor skills are more proficient at socialization and communication than those who have physical deficits. In addition, autism spectrum disorder has a wide range of presentations and physical involvements, with impairments varying from mild to severe. Physical therapists are becoming much more involved in the lives of children with ASD, in order to help these kids improve their day to day functioning from early childhood well into adulthood.

References:

Oregon State University. Autistic children with better motor skills more adept at socializing. Available at: http://oregonstate.edu/ua/ncs/archives/2013/sep/autistic-children-better-motor-skills-more-adept-socializing. Accessed on July 7th, 2014.

Bullen, D. More than just playtime. Advance: Physical Therapy and Rehab Medicine. Vol.24 No.21. Available at http://physical-therapy.advanceweb.com/Features/Articles/More-than-Just-Playtime.aspx. Accessed on July 7th, 2014.

Ming, Xue, Michael Brimacombe, and George C. Wagner. “Prevalence of motor impairment in autism spectrum disorders.” Brain and Development 29.9 (2007): 565-570.

manual muscle testing

Understanding Physical Therapy Outcome Measurements: Manual Muscle Testing for Kids

 

 

 

When a child attends a physical therapy evaluation for a developmental concern (e.g. delayed walking), an orthopedic injury (e.g. sprained ankle), or a neurological condition (e.g. cerebral palsy), the pediatric physical therapist makes important clinical observations as part of the assessment process. From standardized tests, to medical history, to visual inspection, the physical therapy examination process is multi-fold and complex. While Manual Muscle Testing (MMT) is a tried and true method of measuring strength discrepancies in orthopedic and neurological cases in adults, isolating and grading muscle strength in children can be tricky and harder to standardize across practitioners and patients.

So how do physical therapists test for muscle strength in children?

manual muscle testingInfants/Toddlers
Most of the strength testing is done through observation. Instead of testing isolated muscles, physical therapists look for movements across muscle groups. To know if a baby has the proper strength to explore his environment, we look for specific muscle actions during motions done against gravity. For example, can an 8 month old baby push himself on to hands and knees? Can a 6-month-old bring his feet to his mouth? Can a 3-months-old tuck his chin when pulled from a lying position to a sitting position? What physical therapists are looking for is 1) the ability to make certain movements against gravity at appropriate stages of development, 2) symmetry between side of the body to ensure proper growth, and 3) making sure the baby isn’t just compensating for a weak body part by using another muscle group to move inefficiently.

Preschool/School Aged
When testing muscle power of older children, symmetry of movement and absence of compensatory patterns are still important indicators of age-appropriate strength. While the literature has not agreed on a minimum age for MMT to be used on children (the advised range is between 5-10 years of age), the general consensus is that the child should have the language and cognitive development to follow the MMT instructions. When testing isolated joint actions and muscle strength, the examiner has to apply an external force to the muscle group being tested. In young children, the levels of resistance applied must match the child’s size and weight. Just like with babies, functional tasks are a great way to test muscle strength and power in a young child, or a child with developmental difficulties. For example, being able to perform sit to stand or squat to stand without deviations would suggest appropriate muscle strength and control of lower body muscles such as the quadriceps, hamstrings, and the glutes. Being able to perform stair climbing without needing a rail or without knees buckling would suggest sufficient lower body muscle power as well.

Adolescents
Adolescents can be tested using the adult standardized method of manual muscle testing. Depending on the scale used, examiners can give the muscle one of 10 grades and descriptions for strength, such as poor, fair, good, normal, etc. Because MMT is a standardized process, consistency of testing is critical. Muscles are thoroughly tested in gravity-lessened and against-gravity positions. Testing of the unaffected side is also important, to attain a normal baseline for the person being tested.

For further reading on MMT grades and procedures, consult the charts listed in the references provided. Manual Muscle Testing is used by physical therapists, physiatrists, orthopedists, and neurologists alike. It is an important part of the physical examination process. While used primarily in adults, children as young has 4 years of age can be tested using this method.

References:
Kendall, F.P., E.K. McCreary, and P.G. Provance, Muscles: Testing and Function, in Posture and Pain. 1993, Baltimore: Williams & Wilkins.
Dutton, M. Principles of Manual Muscle Testing, in Orthopedic Examination, Evaluation, and Intervention. Available at http://highered.mheducation.com/sites/0071474013/student_view0/chapter8/manuaul_muscle_testing.html. Accessed July 6th, 2014.
Palmer, M.L. and M. Epler, Principles of Examination Techniques, in Clinical Assessment Procedures in Physical Therapy, M.L. Palmer and M. Epler, Editors. 1990, JB Lippincott: Philadelphia. p. 8-36.

 

Laughing baby with ball

Understanding Physical Therapy Outcome Measurements: The Peabody Developmental Motor Scale, Second Edition (PDMS-II)

 

 

 

In my previous blog about the Alberta Infant Motor Scale, I mentioned that as a baby ages, more age-appropriate developmental motor scales must be used to monitor achievement of skills.  The Peabody Developmental Motor Scale is a comprehensive and reliable tool used to measure both fine and gross motor activities early in life. It was designed to assess motor skills in children from birth to 5 years old.  A majority of physical therapists use this assessment to monitor toddler and preschooler development.

Laughing baby with ballThe PDMS-2 is not just limited to physical therapist use. It can be helpful to occupational therapists, diagnosticians, early intervention specialists, adapted physical education teachers, psychologists, and developmental pediatricians who are monitoring motor abilities of children younger than five.  The six subtests that make up the PDMS-2 can be used separately or can be combined to collectively describe a child’s gross motor skills (Gross Motor Quotient), fine motor skills (Fine Motor Quotient), or overall motor skills (Total Motor Quotient).

See below for a description of each subtest:

Reflexes: The 8-item Reflexes subtest measures aspects of a child’s ability to automatically react to environmental events.  Because reflexes typically become integrated and less obvious by the time a child is 12 months old, this subtest is given only to children from birth through 11 months of age.

Stationary:  The 30-item Stationary subtest measures a child’s ability to control his body within its center of gravity and retain equilibrium. Stationary skills include standing on one leg without falling, or standing on tiptoes.

Locomotion: The 89-item Locomotion subtest measures a child’s ability to move from one place to another.  The actions measured include crawling, walking, running, hopping, and jumping forward.

Object Manipulation: The 24-item Object Manipulation subtest measures a child’s ability to manipulate balls.  Examples of the actions measured include catching, throwing, and kicking.

Physical therapists mostly focus on the reflex, stationary, locomotion, and object manipulation portions of the PDMS-2.  Through these sections of the test, we can better assess 1) the maturation of a baby’s neuromuscular system, 2) his safety and stability when navigating his environment, 3) his ability to support and move his own weight, and 4) his ability to maintain his balance and control his trunk while moving objects outside his center of gravity. Overall, this tells us how well a child can use the large muscles in his body to stabilize and create movement.

The Peabody Developmental Motor Scale has been norm-referenced, and proven to be reliable and valid. It has been used to monitor children with and without developmental difficulties. It is relatively easy to administer and the information it provides can be used by medical professionals to tailor a child’s individualized education program (IEP).

Does your toddler have special needs? Or do you have questions about physical therapy screenings for your preschooler? Come to see one of our specialists!

Child receiving acupuncture

Is Pediatric Acupuncture for Real? – A Physical Therapist Perspective

 

 

 

I recently recommended acupuncture treatment to a client with an especially challenging case of idiopathic toe-walking. Instead of giving me the raised eyebrows I usually see when recommending alternative medicine to children, her mother eagerly set up an appointment with a well-researched practitioner of her choice. Within a month, the weekly acupuncture sessions in combination with weekly physical therapy sessions paid off. My little client, after years of walking on the balls of her feet 100% of the time, was now only toe-walking 5% of the time.

I know what you are thinking. Sticking multiple needles in children? How could I even suggest such a thing?

Child receiving acupunctureThe practice of acupuncture has been around for thousands of years. Not only has it been greatly accepted in China and eastern cultures, it has also been gaining ground in the United States. In 2011, more than a third of pain clinics across the country utilized some sort of acupuncture as therapy for various ailments. Though acupuncture has been found to be effective in treating adults, research on its efficacy in children is still in the beginning stages.  Boston Children’s Hospital, one of the leading institutions for pediatric care, has an entire service designated to acupuncture. Treatment is performed by a physician trained in both western medicine and eastern medicine, making the approach highly integrative and highly effective.

The term “acupuncture” might register thoughts of needles piercing the skin, but it actually describes a family of treatment options that stimulate anatomical points along the body. Licensed acupuncturists are actually trained in multiple components of traditional eastern medicine.  They, much like pediatric physical therapists, are taught to treat the child holistically, taking into account family and medical history, developmental factors, and severity of condition.  In my client’s case, she was treated with a technique called “cupping,” which worked to stimulate muscle relaxation and improve circulation to areas restricting her motion.  Whether through needles, cups, heat, or through other techniques, the basis of acupuncture is to encourage blood flow and promote healing.

Acupuncture has been successful in treating chronic pain and certain systemic conditions without significant side effects. The majority of pediatric patients are seen for everything from headaches and dental pain to back pain, from constipation to gastritis, from side effects of chemotherapy, to cystic fibrosis. Recent research has even supported acupuncture as a treatment of ADHD, lazy eye, and nausea in children. A specialized acupuncturist in pediatric alternative medicine often uses a variety of techniques to treat the child as a whole. The needles used in acupuncture therapy are small, sterilized, nontoxic, and tightly regulated by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).  They are nearly painless and have very few complications.

Both the World Health Organization (WHO) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) have recognized acupuncture as effective in treating a wide variety of health conditions. Acupuncturist training is at the Master’s degree level, which is the entry-level degree for the profession. With growing research on the effectiveness of and the mechanism behind acupuncture, insurance companies often cover the treatment when it is associated with specific medical conditions. More often than not, acupuncture is used in conjunction with more traditional therapies. I have seen its benefits in numerous individuals with some challenging chronic conditions.

Health care providers, such as physical therapists and primary physicians, serve as resources to help parents determine if alternative treatments are right for their child. Talk to your pediatrician if you have concerns that haven’t been remedied by traditional methods alone. Find a qualified and licensed practitioner who meets the education and training standards set by the Council of Colleges of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (CCAOM).  Keep an open mind when you bring your child to see an acupuncturist who specializes in pediatric care. Remember, a child’s progress depends on a multitude of factors, and his well-being relies heavily on his health providers staying on the same page about his plan of care.

 

Do you have questions or experiences with alternative therapies? Please let us know.

References:

 

  1. Acupuncture, an introduction. National Institute of Health. National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine. U.S Department of Health Services Website. Accessed at http://nccam.nih.gov/sites/nccam.nih.gov/files/Backgrounder_Acupuncture_02-20-2013.pdf on June 12, 2014.
  2. Pediatric Acupuncture. Psychology Today website. Accessed at http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/real-healing/201107/pediatric-acupuncture on June 12, 2014
  3. Acupuncture. Boston Children’s Hospital website. Accessed at http://www.childrenshospital.org/health-topics/procedures/acupuncture on June 15, 2014
Infant crawling

Understanding Physical Therapy Outcome Measurements: The Alberta Infant Motor Scale (AIMS)

Pediatric physical therapists use different methods and tools to monitor children at risk for motor delay. These measurement tools are often age-specific, reliable, valid, and easy to administer. The purpose of using standardized outcome measurements is that both typical and atypical development can be monitored across the lifespan.

Infant crawlingWhen a baby attends his first physical therapy session, he will most likely be evaluated using the Alberta Infant Motor Scale.  This scale assesses the motor development of babies birth to eighteen months of age. It breaks down the components of infant movements, up until independent walking is achieved.  Over the course of a baby’s first year of physical therapy, he will most likely be evaluated multiple times using this scale. Based on the child’s ability to perform gross motor milestones in 4 different positions: supine (lying on back), prone (lying on tummy), sitting, and standing, physical therapists and occupational therapists can determine his motor performance compared to his peers. Much like a height and weight scale used by pediatricians, the AIMS allows physical therapists to record infants’ developmental maturity as a percentile score, and to monitor his motor development over time. This way all health professionals involved in your baby’s care can track his growth over time, both compared to his peers, and compared to his previous performances.

There are a couple other standardized assessment tools we use to monitor gross motor development. Keep in mind that one-time screenings are not enough to rule out developmental delay. When using outcome measures to determine motor delay, physical therapists need to perform multiple assessments over time, using a variety of tests.  Once a baby outgrows the AIMS, we have other standardized tools ready to go for the toddler stage. Look for information on the Peabody Developmental Motor Scale in an upcoming blog.

Questions about physical therapy screenings for your baby? Please give us a call!