San Diego Occupational Therapy now offers individualized physical therapy services that can help your child flourish and succeed.

What is a pediatric physical therapist?

A pediatric physical therapist has advanced training and education in evaluating, diagnosing, treating, and preventing delays in gross motor skills related to strength, flexibility, posture, balance, coordination, motor planning, and motor learning. Physical therapists look at whether or not a child can perform a particular movement or skill, and assess how the movement or skill is done. 

What does pediatric physical therapy look like?

Pediatric physical therapy involves interventions to improve gross motor skills in children from birth to adolescence to improve a child’s ability to function independently and enhance their mobility. Treatment is based on the specific needs of each child and often includes improving strength, flexibility, posture, balance, coordination, motor planning, and motor learning. Physical therapists focus on making movement more efficient and promoting safety in the child’s natural environment. 

Pediatric physical therapy sessions look and feel like play. Physical therapists engage children with fun, age-appropriate games and activities to keep them motivated and happy. Families play an important role in therapy, collaborating with the therapist to create an individualized program. Parent education and support is also an important component of pediatric physical therapy.

Common physical therapy diagnoses:

  • Developmental delay 
  • Torticollis
  • Hypotonia (low muscle tone)
  • Hypertonia (high muscle tone)
  • Down syndrome and other genetic disorders
  • Autism spectrum disorder 
  • Cerebral palsy
  • Developmental coordination disorder 
  • Complications of prematurity  
  • Gross motor delay
  • Musculoskeletal injuries 
  • Gait issues (such as toe walking)

How do I know if my child needs physical therapy? 

Below are some signs that indicate a physical therapy evaluation may be warranted:

Signs for  0-16 months of age

  • Asymmetrical movement 
    • Preference for turning head to one side 
    • Reaching for or playing with toys with only one arm
    • Performing transitions only to one side (rolling, half kneel to stand)
  • “Floppy” baby 
  • Baby appears “lazy” or not motivated to move
  • Not bearing weight on legs by 6 months 
  • Only standing with knees locked or up on tiptoes
  • Not sitting independently by 8 months 
  • Not creeping (hands and knees) by 11 months 
  • Not standing independently by 12 months 
  • Not walking independently by 16 months 


General signs of gross motor delays

  • Asymmetrical movement or gross motor skills (ex: leads with only left or right leg going up or down stairs)
  • Walks on tiptoes for more than 3 months, more than 50% of the time 
  • Frequently falls or trips on items in environment, seems clumsy or uncoordinated
  • Poor posture (slumps) or frequently changing body position while sitting 
  • Difficulty with power, aim, or coordination with ball skills (throwing, catching, kicking) 
  • Tires easily when playing or avoids participating in gross motor activities
  • Difficulty keeping up with same-aged peers