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Physiotherapy is a clinical health science and profession that aims to rehabilitate and improve people with movement disorders by using evidence-based, natural methods such as exercise, motivation, and adaptive equipment

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A physiotherapist is a health professional trained to assess and treat a variety of conditions that affect the physical function of adults and children. Physiotherapists are often referred to as 'movement specialists'. Physiotherapists who are trained particularly to work with children and adolescents are Paediatric Physiotherapists. Physiotherapists study medical science subjects such as anatomy, neuroscience and physiology to develop skills and attitudes necessary for health education and prevention, diagnosis, treatment and rehabilitation of patients with physical disorders and disabilities.

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There are many recognized institutes in India providing Bachelors and Masters Programs. Bachelor's degree is a 4-year and a Master's degree is a 2-year program.

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Many children, particularly those with special needs, have some movement dysfunctions. These can manifest as poor posture, clumsiness, low muscle tone, incoordination, and lack of fluidity of movement. All of these may be quite low grade but can be identified by a therapist experienced in movement.

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The practice of Physiotherapy involves:

  • Assessing the issue at hand, that is most often the physical state of the child.
  • Devising a special program to suit each child's needs based on their degree of understanding and reason for referral. The program may involve the use of balance, strength and co-ordination activities, toys, games or other special equipment.
  • Monitor the child's progress and alter the program as the child improves, develops and grows.
  • Help the families understand the child's problem and teach parents/care-givers the skills to develop the child's ability to perform everyday tasks.
  • Give advice regarding footwear or prescription of equipment to improve the child's skills and function.
  • Work in conjunction with other health professionals to meet all the child's needs in a thorough and comprehensive way.
  • Refer the child to other health professionals within the hospital when appropriate.
  • Ensure a smooth transition from hospital to home and return to school, in conjunction with the child, family, other health care workers and teachers.

Intervention plan is drawn in conjunction with the interdisciplinary team to identify which key areas require concentration. Initially, the emphasis may fall to the physiotherapists to ensure that the child is able to access their daily care and other therapeutic needs, through postural management and equipment provision, progressing to specific interventions to increase control of movement and functional ability. As the child progresses, the emphasis may move away from physiotherapy, so that the physiotherapist's role becomes one that supports the other disciplines, particularly as joining mainstream education may be imminent for some children. One of the core areas focused on is the 'Motor Curriculum', this is based around motor skills; learning and development linked to motor goals. For those children who can achieve higher-level physical skills with core stability, input may range from balance and strengthening activities in the gym to external sporting activities as appropriate.

A carefully tailored exercise programme will improve daily living functions and enhance concentration, which facilitates learning, improves mood and behaviour, and importantly helps build self-esteem, which is often low in children with special needs. Each child will have a programme of physiotherapy input that is both appropriate to their physical requirements and wider holistic needs.

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There are a variety of facilities in which these professionals work.

  • Hospitals/Clinics: There are many hospitals/clinics in which these professionals are employed with in the pediatric department. The children will be directly referred to them by doctors for assessment and therapy.
  • Rehabilitation centre : There are many public/private rehabilitation centres which employ physiotherapists
  • Special schools: Therapists also work within the school settings.
  • Private practice: In India private practice is very common where many therapists work independently. They may be working part-time in any of the facilities mentioned above along with private practice also.

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