Physical Therapy for Motor Development and Infant Milestones

Physical Therapy for Motor Development and Infant Milestones


As babies grow, they learn new skills, like head control, rolling, or pulling up to a standing position. Each baby is unique. Health care professionals consider that a baby is developing normally if he/she demonstrates specific skills within a time range or at a particular age. Babies can master some skills quickly and others more slowly.


There are many reasons why a baby may not reach a developmental milestone. When babies experience motor development delays, it can have a cascading effect on other important skills and milestones. When a neurological issue, muscular issue, or disability is present, pediatric physical therapy can help the baby develop important skills to progress in his/her development.



Age Appropriate Skills


A physical therapist will assess the infant/child to see if there is a delay and how mildly or severely it will affect their development. Treatment plans are then made to focus on each of the deficits that the licensed physical therapist determines. At times, adaptive equipment is needed to improve an infant, child, or teen’s quality of life. 


At times, a motor skill is mildly affected due to muscle weakness or lack of coordination in an infant or child. Exercises can help to improve these deficits and in turn, a child can remain on track to reach his/her age-appropriate motor milestones. 



What Causes Delays


Developmental delays can be related to muscle imbalances, neurologic issues, or the result of genetics. 

Some diagnoses are known before birth, some occur with birth and others become apparent over time. Some of the causes of delay include but are not limited to:


  • Neurological conditions: cerebral palsy, spina bifida.

  • Genetic disorders such as Down Syndrome.

  • Injury from a fall or accident.

  • Feeding issues.

  • Keeping a child in a carrier.

  • Decreased tummy time. 

  • Sleeping issues. 

  • Plagiocephaly: tightening of neck muscles



Making Hard Work Fun


When physical therapists work with infants and toddlers to reach milestones, a key element to success is play based therapy. Physical therapists often incorporate play and positive reinforcement to make the hard work of physical therapy more fun.


There are many ways that physical therapists can engage an infant, child, or teen. Toys, music, special interests of the patient, and equipment help to make the activity more fun and engaging.



A Family Affair


Physical therapists do not just work with the infant, child, or teen. They work with caregivers to develop a plan of care. They can demonstrate stretches or exercises that can be done at home to improve success. Caregivers and siblings can play games with strategic movements that encourage progress toward milestones. Physical therapists can also assess the role of diet, sleep and need for lifestyle changes in therapy.


Missed milestones and developmental delays can cause caregivers a lot of anxiety, but finding the right team will bring relief. If you’re worried that your baby or child isn’t reaching his/her milestones, the team at Apex Wellness can work with you to develop a plan of care. Call (917) 809-6752 to schedule telehealth or in-person session.

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