Physical Therapy Creates Lifelong Healthy Habits

Guest blog contributed by Jennie Marble, MA CCC-SLP, Director of Integrated Pediatric Therapies at JCFS Chicago.

Many children with developmental delays and disabilities have trouble with coordination, strength, and muscle tone. JCFS Chicago’s physical therapist helps develop basic motor skills like rolling, sitting, walking, and running. But we don't stop at the basics. We want to be sure that all children can fully participate in their community at their highest potential.

Physical Therapists want all people to be interested and enjoy moving their body, but if focus hasn't been put on that beyond simply navigating their personal space, many people with intellectual and developmental disabilities may not independently pick up bike riding, swimming, or playing tag on the playground.

Physical therapy helps prepare children with developmental delays and disabilities to successfully keep up with their peers in places like the playground. By improving gross motor skills beyond the basics, we give children more ability and more confidence to navigate social situations.

A physical therapist’s job is also to teach their clients how to move in sustainable ways. In many cases, children who need physical therapy overwork their bodies very quickly without realizing it, causing sudden exhaustion. Physical therapists teach them how to move in controlled ways. Balance and strength are skills that they need to learn, attend, and adapt their bodies to novel situations.

A lack of physical activity can be detrimental over the long run. There are other extremely important health benefits that all people need to acquire from physical activity. Gross motor activities boost endorphins and allow us to flex our heart and lungs. By participating in gross motor activities, we improve mental health, and create lifelong healthy habits that sustain normal body movement and function.

There is also worry about the dangers of physical limitations in the short term; specifically, in emergency situations. Can an individual move quickly enough to exit a building in a fire? If the individual falls, do they have the strength and body awareness to lift themselves up? Can someone who is ambulatory independently navigate a curb when crossing the street? Accidents happen, and physical therapists aim to ensure their clients have the skills to help themselves as much as they can.

A child with any lifelong intellectual or developmental disability could benefit from a physical therapy assessment periodically, as their body grows; not only to encourage full participation in their community as a child but also to build confidence in how their body moves to live healthy and engaging lives as adults. Ensuring a body moves in the best feasible way improves pain management, decreases need for environment modifications (allowing aging in place) and creates skills that reduce the risk of depression and improves self-efficacy.

About Integrated Pediatric Therapies:

In our clinic or in your home, and through teletherapy, our expert pediatric speech-language, occupational and physical therapists bring a family-focused approach to the treatment of developmental delays and disabilities in children from birth through teens. Our physical therapist works together with the family to develop dynamic and functional goals for a child to be successful. Let our therapist support your child throughout their development in the areas of gross motor strength, flexibility, and movement. For more information or to make an appointment, please email or call 847.412.4379.

C.I.T.Y. of Support is grateful to Jennie Marble for her participation as one of our organization's sponsors. Please note that the information and opinions presented here are specifically her own.  The purpose of C.I.T.Y. of Support's collaborative blog is to help connect families and professionals to different community resources, and we do not specifically endorse any particular recommendations provided herein.