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Survey of the Preferences of Pediatric Physical Therapists for Assessment and Treatment of Balance Dysfunction in Children

Westcott Sarah L. PhD PT; Murray, Kimberly Hartzler MPT; Pence, Kari MPT
Pediatric Physical Therapy: Summer 1998
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The purpose of this study was to determine preferences for assessment and treatment strategies used by pediatric physical therapists (PTs) for balance dysfunction in children. Sixty-seven percent (566 of 843) of a random sample of PTs, stratified by region of the United States, who belonged to the Section on Pediatrics of the American Physical Therapy Association in 1994, and who had agreed to receive outside mailings, returned a mail survey. The respondents were either currently practicing physical therapy or had practiced within the last five years at the time of the survey. In the questionnaire, two case studies were presented, a child with mild balance dysfunction and a child with moderate balance dysfunction. Therapists rated from listed choices: 1) assessments and treatment techniques they would use for these two children, 2) frequency of treatment, and 3) philosophy of therapy. Respondents indicated that they would: 1) most often use nonstandardized balance assessments, 2) use a combination of functional and more traditional treatment activities, 3) adjust frequency of treatment based on treatment setting and the child's severity of dysfunction, and 4) most often identify with the neurodevelopmental (NDT) philosophy of treatment. No relationships were found between geographical region and treatment philosophy. A significant relationship was found between treatment philosophy and years of pediatric PT experience. PTs with more experience indicated a preference for the NDT philosophy as compared with a motor learning philosophy (x2 =15.4, p < 0.05). These results can be used to understand pediatric PTs' current practice related to assessment and treatment of balance dysfunction in children and to design studies that compare the effectiveness of traditional assessment and treatment strategies for balance deficits with newly proposed strategies.

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