Motor Delays in Infants and Children

When your child has periodic check-ups at the pediatrician's office, a developmental checklist is often used to determine if your child is achieving motor milestones at the typical age for most children. If a child is delayed in reaching these milestones, such as rolling, sitting independently, crawling, or walking, he or she may be referred to a pediatric physical therapist for evaluation and intervention. In many states, families can bring their children directly to a physical therapist without physician referral for these services.

Human motor development is not a set, invariable process. Although average age of attainment can be found with data from large numbers of children, there can be a wide variety of causes for motor delay. Pediatric physical therapists evaluate movement and limitations to movement which may include neurological, muscular, or skeletal impairments. Limited opportunities for practice of movement can also cause delayed development. 

A therapeutic plan of care which may include optimal positioning, functional training, therapeutic activities, balance and coordination training, muscle strengthening, toy selection and adaptation, play strategies, family instruction, and environmental design is initiated. Goals of therapy are for maximal participation in a child's natural routines with age-similar peers, efficient mobility, successful efforts to play and learn, and reducing the impact of health impairments on physical activity.