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University Hospitals Dorset NHS Foundation Trust

Children's Physiotherapy

Who are the Physiotherapists?

Paediatric Physiotherapists are Members of the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy who work specifically with children as part of a team of other children's specialists. This team is based at a Child Development Centre.

What is special about a children's Physiotherapist?

Children's Physiotherapists have specific experience and knowledge of working with children. They will have undertaken relevant courses and/ or worked alongside other Paediatric Physiotherapists in a number of settings e.g. schools and nurseries.

Where do they work?

When a child is very young, the Physiotherapists may see them at home, at nursery or at a Child Development Centre depending on what is most appropriate.


Assessment describes a process of evaluation. The Physiotherapist does need the parents' help with this process. The Physiotherapist will need to find out whether the parents have any particular concerns, what these concerns are, what the child can and cannot do and how well they do things. There will also be practical issues to learn about; what other commitments do they have as parents and families and what the child's schedule is. In the early years parents will be the best source of information but as their child grows he/she will be able to join in.

Assessment is an interactive process and knowledge obtained during the assessment process is used to plan for the child. As well as observing, the Physiotherapist will want to hold and examine the child - for example to find out whether movement is equal on both sides of the body and whether it feels the same and how this alters as he/she moves and plays. Assessment doesn't stop after the initial assessment but is ongoing and will influence how the goals are set for the child.


As a parent it is useful to have written reports on their child's physical development and also short and long-term goals. Some families like to build up a file of these reports, others just like to know they exist for others to use. It is important for the parents and later for the child to know about and be able to see these reports. The Physiotherapist will try to use everyday terms when they explain things to the parents. However, there are medical terms that are sometimes used especially in written reports. Parents are encouraged to ask if they don't understand a specialist term.

Physical Development Programme

The child's Physiotherapist will explain to the parents how the child's development might be affected and will work with them to plan a programme of physical development. This activity programme will look at particular difficulties and help parents to work towards achievable short-term physical goals. Many parts of a physical development programme for the child can be done through play. The Physiotherapist will want parents to play with their child in various positions and situations.

Physiotherapy is not just about exercises - it is a combination of handling, movement, stimulation and play. Physiotherapy aims to be a time of fun and interaction between parent and child. It should be possible to build it into all the ways that you hold and handle and play with their child throughout the day.

Review Process

It is important for the child's progress to be recorded. In this way realistic goals can be set, problems can be identified and any adjustments can be made. The physical activity programme will need to be discussed and altered from time to time. Often this will be because goals have been achieved. At other times it may be necessary to reset the goals to change the activities. As usual, the parents will be part of this process.

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