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.
When 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.