Child & Family Development Child & Family Development

May 15, 2017

autism and physical therapy


Amy Sturkey, LPT, physical therapist at Child and Family Development- Midtown, is one of the most tenured and experienced pediatric providers here and in the Charlotte community.  With so much clinical experience and additional training and certification, she is a well-known PT who can help children and families improve the most challenging situations.  She has these ideas about autism and physical therapy:

Most people don‚Äôt know how critical physical therapy is for children with autism.  Often people tell me that gross motor skills are their child‚Äôs highest skills. Physical therapy is not a priority for them. 

Then I ask ‚ÄúWhat your child can do?‚Äù  I get a long list of how their child can walk and sit and run really fast. Often parents tell me they have trouble catching their child when he runs away.  I got it.  I ask the parents how is your child‚Äôs imitation skills?  Can he take turns when playing with other children?  Can she play team sports?  Can he walk and keep pace with you? Can she stop when you yell ‚ÄúStop!‚Äù when a car is coming?  Can he play at all with another child or is your child just in his own world?  Does your child reference you to know if she is doing a good job?  Can he follow directional instructions?  Does she know how to slow down if she needs to be careful or speed up if she needs to be in a rush? 

Physical therapy can help with all of these skills.  Most children with autism have at least mildly low tone.  They often have a weak core. Their motor planning skills (the ability to do things on request or in imitation) is often severely limited.  In normal development, copying an adult moving happens before spoken language. Reciprocity occurs very early with gross motor skills.  Initiating physical therapy has been a missing link for many children with autism. It is time to re-think physical therapy and autism. 

Physical therapy has a lot to offer!

Check out Amy’s work outside of C&FD including an exercise app for kids and a children’s book about autism: