National News

Physical therapy holds benefits for children

Posted July 28

— Avia Foster, 5, came into the world weighing less than two pounds. Like many children born under such circumstances, she was having issues with development, specifically walking.

After a year of therapy, she has made great strides.

Sylvia Foster, Avia's mother, said her daughter weighed one pound, 10 ounces at birth, and spent a significant amount of time in the neonatal intensive care unit. When she started walking, she was moving around on her toes rather than flat on her feet.

Babies Can't Wait couldn't cover her care, and surgeons were unable to help.

"They wanted her to do physical therapy," Foster said.

Foster found Fyzical Therapy and Balance Centers, and Avia has been going through one-hour sessions weekly for a year. The regimen produced a result her mother said might not have happened otherwise.

"She has enjoyed coming here," Foster said. "It was just easier for her to walk on her tip-toes. "She got someone working with her that is great with her, and that is going to help her."

At the sessions, Avia's legs have been braced and strapped, and the regimen largely consists of her walking onto Fyzical's floor and kicking a ball around, running and playing on the equipment and with the center's staff.

It sounds simple, but the therapy has done wonders and is something Foster said she highly recommends.

"We didn't expect her to start walking again that quickly," she said.

Ivan Pate, the physical therapist assistant who has worked with Avia, said she started therapy with tight legs and walking on her toes "real bad." The focus, in her case, was turned to stretching and strengthening, which was incorporated by allowing her to act as a normal child would.

"Really, with her, I had her play," Pate said. "She is able to run and keep her balance and not fall."

With Avia and Pate acting primarily as playmates, which has sometimes involved Avia hitting him with a bat, has resulted in her walking - and even running - flat-footed, staying upright and balancing.

In a case like Avia's, Pate said physical therapy beats surgery in that it cuts out a recovery time, the need for certain precautions and allows for an active lifestyle, the latter of which can be particularly important for a child to maintain.

"This, you can jump right in and get started," he said. "They are kids, they want to be active. To them, it feels like playing.

"For a lot of people, (therapy) is about being active."

The California-based Neurological and Physical Abilitiation Center, or NAPA, explains that there are advantages when undergoing physical therapy that may not only benefit a child physically, but also mentally.

"Pediatric physical therapy helps children learn to successfully and independently perform gross motor skills and functional mobility skills," the center's officials said. "As a child begins to successfully develop these skills, it creates a greater form of independence that helps contribute to achieving a higher sense of self-esteem. Though physical therapy for children provides a safer form of development and strengthening, it is also capable of being an essential preventative measure.

"Physical therapy also helps young athletes in preventing injury by addressing any muscle imbalance or weakness as well as helping them to return to play after injury. "

NAPA said range of motion, strength, balance, reflexes, posture and tone are among the things looked at during a child's physical therapy regimen. Methods often incorporated include stretching and strengthening, establishment or reshaping of movement patterns compatible with normal development, improvement of balance and equilibrium skills, improvement of postural control, walking training and evaluation for adaptive equipment and orthopedic devices.

Some of the warning signs NAPA gives on whether a child needs physical therapy include:

- Not meeting the expected developmental milestones during the first year of life, such as rolling, sitting, standing and walking;

- A strong preference for turning the head to one side or using one side of the body;

- Walking up on the balls of the feet or walking in an unusual manner;

- Difficulty keeping up with their peers during play;

- Inability to perform the same gross motor tasks such as hopping, jumping and skipping as their peers;

- Frequent tripping and falling when walking;

- Complaining of pain when performing gross motor tasks;

- Sustaining injuries after which they are not able to perform at their prior level of function.

Fyzical has centers located in Albany and Camilla. For more information, visit www.fyzical.com.

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