Are you looking for information on pediatric physical therapy / paediatric physiotherapy ? Whether you are a parent of a child or infant in need of physiotherapy sessions or a physiotherapist yourself, this article should provide answers to your questions.
All physical therapists receive training during their initial education to treat infants and children. However, some are more inclined to work with young patients.
👩🏾🍼👨🏻🍼 If you are a parent, you are probably wondering about the most common health issues treated through pediatric physiotherapy and how to find specialized pediatric physiotherapists.
👨🎓 If you are a student or a licensed physiotherapist, you may be interested in learning about the education, training, and salary for pediatric physiotherapists. How to become a pediatric physiotherapist? Where to work and how to build a pediatric patient base in private practice? How to set up a pediatric physiotherapy clinic?
I will answer all of these questions based on:
- My experience as a physiotherapist, particularly in pediatrics (in a hospital, at a motor skills education institute, and in private practice, including work with an Early Medical-Social Support Center CAMSP) – “kine pedia” in the jargon.
- My in-depth research on the web and in scientific and professional literature as necessary.
Happy reading 🙂!
Last update: October 2023
Disclaimer: Affiliate links. Complete disclosure in legal notices.
Written by Nelly Darbois, physical therapist and scientific writer
Pediatric Physical therapy: Pathologies
Babies and children may require rehabilitation, just like adults. This may be necessary for various acute or chronic conditions, accidents, or developmental problems that began in utero. Different types of rehabilitation can be distinguished.
Neurological Paediatric Physiotherapy / Physical Therapy for Neurological Conditions
Neurological pediatric care is mentioned when a baby or child has developmental problems due to a neurological issue. It can be a simple developmental delay that will catch up over the months or a delay that will persist throughout life.
The causes can be multiple: of genetic origin (such as Down syndrome, which has consequences on motor development), related to a stroke or birth-related accident (👉 cerebral palsy rehabilitation), or the first months or years of life, prematurity, etc.
Sometimes the causes are also unknown.
Physiotherapists, in collaboration with parents and other healthcare professionals, assess the motor and sensory abilities of the baby or child, which are regularly re-evaluated.
As playful situations as possible are offered to improve the baby or child’s abilities, compensate for their deficits, and maintain their current abilities while limiting the onset of functional or painful discomfort related to their deficits.
Pediatric Orthopedic Physical Therapy
At birth, a baby can be born with orthopedic deformities, which means they are present in the skeleton and joints. They most often affect the feet, hands, and spine.
They appear during in-utero development and may go unnoticed during ultrasounds. Sometimes, with growth, they disappear spontaneously.
Other times, they require physiotherapy sessions and orthopedic treatment using orthoses or braces. In rare cases, surgery may be proposed.
Common deformities include clubfoot, varus foot, or positional plagiocephaly or brachycephaly (sometimes associated with congenital torticollis).
The goal of physiotherapy is to restore functional, aesthetic, and pain-free limbs or spine.
👉 See also: toe walking in children.
Like in adults, children’s bones can break or fracture, and their joints can dislocate. This can happen, for example, after a road accident or a fall from a certain height.
Children’s bones heal faster and better than those of adults, cartilage regenerates better, and children spontaneously resume their previous activities after being immobilized.
Generally, there is no need for physiotherapy sessions to recover joint mobility and muscle strength after immobilization with a cast or splint. Even if the child experiences limping or discomfort for a few weeks.
Simple monitoring of the spontaneous resolution of any deficits is usually sufficient.
However, physiotherapists are sometimes called upon to care for children with multiple traumas or significant fractures. Sessions can take place just after the application of a cast or surgical procedure or later, after the consolidation phase.
Pediatric Respiratory Physiotherapy
Genetic diseases, the most well-known being cystic fibrosis, may require regular physiotherapy care. Severe orthopedic spinal deformities can also result in regular physiotherapy needs.
Babies and children without genetic diseases or neurological or orthopedic issues may also require physiotherapy. This is the case with certain cases of bronchiolitis or chronic asthma, for example.
Physiotherapists are also professionals who can help parents identify the most appropriate techniques for clearing their baby/child’s nose.
What studies are required to become a pediatric physical therapist?
The initial training for physical therapists spans 3-5 years in a school or university, followed by one year of exams. Throughout these years, physical therapy students will attend classes that cover:
- Pathologies in babies and children.
- Rehabilitation and disabilities in babies and children.
- Normal and pathological motor, sensory, and cognitive development in babies and children.
To become a specialized pediatric physiotherapist, one must first complete the general physiotherapy training and obtain a state diploma as a physiotherapist in France or other country.
Even though the training is comprehensive, it includes pediatrics without the need to choose a specialization during the training at the school.
Furthermore, all physical therapy students must complete at least one internship in a pediatric hospital department or with physiotherapists in private practice who primarily treat babies and children.
How to find a pediatric physical therapist?
There isn’t a formal specialization in pediatric physiotherapy for physiotherapists. All physiotherapists can pursue continuing education in pediatrics or self-train to work with babies and children.
Initial training for physiotherapists already includes some specific lessons on pediatric physiotherapy.
There are no specific degrees, as there are for nurses who can specialize in pediatrics by studying an additional year in nursing sciences. There is also no dedicated multi-year curriculum, as is the case for pediatricians in medical faculties.
However, some physiotherapists decide to dedicate a significant portion or their entire practice to treating babies and children.
These physiotherapists can work in various settings such as pediatric hospital departments, pediatric rehabilitation centers, home-based specialized care and education services (SESSAD), motor education centers, as well as medical-educational institutes and early medical-social action centers.
Physiotherapists in private practice can also focus mainly or exclusively on treating babies or children, either in their clinics or by providing home visits.
Here are three tips for finding a pediatric physical therapist in your area:
- Use the directory of a pediatric physiotherapy association.
- Conduct a search using Google, Google Maps, or DuckDuckGo.
- Rely on word of mouth, and ask your doctor or pediatrician for recommendations.
Use the directory of a pediatric physical therapy association
You can consult the directories of associations specializing in paediatric physiotherapy / pediatric physlca therapy.
Here are the national pediatric physiotherapy associations in the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom:
United States (USA):
- The American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) has a section called the Pediatric Physical Therapy Section (PPS) that focuses on pediatric physical therapy. They offer resources and support for pediatric physiotherapists in the USA.
- The Canadian Physiotherapy Association (CPA) represents physiotherapists across Canada. While they do not have a specific pediatric division, they offer resources and support for physiotherapists working with children.
United Kingdom (UK):
- The Association of Paediatric Chartered Physiotherapists (APCP) is the national association for pediatric physiotherapists in the UK. They provide resources, education, and support for physiotherapists working with children.
You can visit their respective websites for more information and resources related to pediatric physiotherapy in these countries.
Search via search engines like Google or Ecosia
Standard search engines can also be used to find physiotherapists who work with babies and children.
For example, type “paediatric physiotherapist London”, “pediatric physical therapist near me” or “pediatric physical therapist Denver” into your preferred search engine.
Check with your doctor, pediatrician, or word of mouth
Pediatricians and general practitioners can refer you to pediatric physical therapists they know. You can also ask physiotherapists in your area, as well as institutions that provide services to children in need of rehabilitation.
What is the salary of a pediatric physical therapist?
The salary of a pediatric physiotherapist is the same as that of a regular physiotherapist!
🏥 In employment, there is no specific pay scale for pediatric physiotherapists.
Whether you work in a hospital, rehabilitation center, specialized institute, you will be paid like any other physiotherapist, according to the applicable convention.
In 2023 in France, this can range from 1,400 € net to 3,000 € net per month depending on your seniority, the type of institution, and its location.
🕊️ In private practice in France, there are no specific billing codes or surcharges for pediatrics (unlike, for example, nurses or doctors).
An exception is in neuro-pediatrics with cerebral palsy / encephalopathy.
Income is therefore roughly similar to that of a regular physiotherapist, with significant differences depending on how you work and the number of hours worked (some physiotherapists work 60 to 75 hours per week). As a rough estimate, it can range from 1,000€ net to 5,000€ net per month.
💰 The salary of a pediatric physiotherapist is the same as that of a more generalist physiotherapist, both in employment and in private practice.
In other country
Here’s a general overview of what you might expect:
- In Canada, the salary for pediatric physical therapists typically ranges from $65,000 to $90,000 CAD per year, depending on factors such as location (urban areas often pay more), experience, and whether you work in a public or private healthcare setting.
- United States:
- In the United States, salaries for pediatric physical therapists vary by state and region. On average, pediatric physical therapists can earn between $60,000 and $95,000 USD annually.
- United Kingdom:
- In the UK, salaries for pediatric physical therapists can vary based on experience and location. On average, the salary range is approximately £25,000 to £45,000 GBP per year. London and the South East generally offer higher salaries compared to other regions.
Source: I averaged the first three Google search results providing figures for the year 2023 for these three countries.
Here’s what I wanted to tell you about this! I wish you a very good recovery! Do you have any comments or questions? Your comments are welcome 🙂 !
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Written by Nelly Darbois
I love writing articles based on my experience as a physiotherapist (since 2012), scientific writer, and extensive researcher in international scientific literature.
I live in the French Alps 🌞❄️, where I work as a scientific editor for my own website, which is where you are right now.