Intensive physical therapy is a powerful form of therapy to help children with developmental delays, traumatic brain injuries, or neurological disorders like cerebral palsy.
You may be wondering things like:
- What is intensive physical therapy?
- How is intensive PT different from traditional PT?
- How does my child qualify?
- Do I need a referral?
If any of these questions ring true, here are your answers and more…
Expert physical therapist, Dr. Christine Astarita, shares the 9 most frequently asked questions about intensive physical therapy.
1. What is the difference between intensive physical therapy vs. traditional physical therapy?
If you have a child or loved one with special needs, you have most likely experienced traditional PT before.
If not, traditional PT (no matter what setting) focuses on treatment for impairment or injury by restoring function/movement using a variety of methods such as an exercise program, massage, and stretching.
Intensive PT also focuses on treatment for specific impairment.
However, it is used in the neurological population because of its protocol.
Intensive PT focuses on stretching, strengthening, and practicing functional movement for improved mobility and independence.
It is the repetition of functional tasks using a specific length of treatment times and specialized equipment like the Universal Exercise Unit and the TheraSuit which makes it intensive.
2. Why is intensive PT used for Individuals with neurological conditions?
Individuals with neurological conditions must practice a task thousands of more times in order to produce an outcome and retrain their brains to achieve the task.
For example, if a baby wants to push up onto extended arms, they must repeat the task hundreds of times in order to achieve the goal.
An individual with a neurological diagnosis must practice that thousands of more times to achieve that same goal.
3. Won’t my special needs child become too tired if their therapy session is so long?
Tired yes. Too tired, no.
The therapist you work with is certified in intensive therapy and knows what limits to push and when to give a rest.
Keep in mind, that your child will be working in different functional movement patterns and probably working muscles they haven’t before.
Tired would be expected.
Your therapist is always monitoring the session and treatment response and will know the limits!
4. How do I know if my child will qualify for intensive therapy?
The best way to know is to talk to a therapist.
There are precautions and contraindications to specifics of these types of programs.
Your therapist will ask you all of the questions necessary to make sure that your child is a candidate for this type of therapy.
Your therapist may also have you get a hip X-Ray prior to treatment to cover all bases and make sure there are no specific concerns!
5. Can intensive therapy help individuals with sensory issues?
The use of the TheraSuit provides joint loading and sensory input to the individual’s body which can improve spatial and body awareness!
6. What if I already receive PT in the home or school for my child?
Great! Most clients are.
Intensive PT can be a supplement to other therapies such as school or home PT.
Intensive PT provides an opportunity to accelerate progress and functional capabilities through various programs offered.
It is a way to achieve more and reach new functional and developmental levels.
7. Does it work for individuals with low tone also?
The TheraSuit that is used in intensive therapy helps to normalize muscle tone whether that be high or low tone.
It can help to strengthen muscles as well as assist muscles.
Every individual with a neurologic condition is so unique.
The TheraSuit would be used specifically to cater to what your child’s needs are!
8. How long until I see the results from intensive PT?
There’s no clear answer to this question.
Every individual is different.
Can I promise that intensive PT will help your child walk in 3 sessions?….No.
I can however say that if your therapist determines that your child is a candidate for this type of therapy, you can see differences in your child’s mobility and abilities whether that be small differences or larger.
It takes time for the brain to begin making new connections and pathways.
As stated earlier, an individual with a neurological condition requires increased repetitions for a functional task.
These things can take time, but it is always worth it!
9. Do I need a referral from my primary care doctor?
Same as traditional PT. The law is called Direct Access.
Here in NY, you are free to go to a Physical Therapist without needing a referral from a doctor.
So, there you have it: 9 Most Frequently Asked Questions about Intensive PT.
Questions to take you behind the scenes and hopefully answer what you are really thinking about.
About the Author
Dr. Christine Astarita, PT, DPT is the founder of Breakthrough Intensive PT; Long Island’s intensive therapy center focused around the whole family. Throughout her career, Christine has worked with children from the NICU all the way into adulthood and knew there had to be a better way to serve them. So, she’s taken her passion and direction in life to serve the special needs community by offering intensive therapy programs, group fitness programs, parent support, and educational programs, as well as sibling support programs to enhance and improve the quality of their lives.
When not working at Breakthrough PT, reading, or researching ways to improve the business, you can find her out with her family hiking the trails or preparing for her next half or full marathon! Christine loves running and believes it to be her method of meditation all while keeping her in shape to eat all of the ice cream and french fries she wants! She believes her true purpose and calling is to help this underserved community in a BIG way.
We want to wrap up by extending our gratitude to thank you for stopping by today!
What’s your experience with intensive physical therapy? Do you have any questions or anything to add?
Let us know in the comments below. ♥
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