An American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) clinical report in
the April 2019 Pediatrics describes how health care providers can best
connect the rising number of children who have disabilities with evidence-based
therapy services in hospital, community, home and school settings. “Prescribing Physical, Occupational and Speech Therapy Services for Children with Disabilities,” published online March 25, highlights the importance of coordinating
care with therapists to help children gain or recover key skills.
“Understanding how certain conditions impact the way
children function day-to-day is becoming increasingly important, because more
and more children are living with complex health conditions and disabilities,”
said the report’s lead author, Amy J. Houtrow, MD, PhD, MPH, FAAP, FAAPMR.
Childhood disability, especially from neurodevelopmental conditions, is
increasing, according to the report. This includes acquired disability, such as
from a broken bone or traumatic brain injury, as well as ongoing conditions
such as cerebral palsy.
“The goals we have for children with disabilities are the
same goals we have for all children--for them to be happy, healthy and able to
participate fully in life,” Dr. Houtrow said. “Physical, occupational and
speech therapy can help children reach these goals by developing new skills,
regain lost skills, and accommodate for skills that may not be developed or
Authors of the report warn against prescribing unproven
therapies. For example, some people use hyperbaric (pressurized) oxygen to
treat cerebral palsy. This treatment has not been proven effective and
could have harmful effects to the child. In general, treatment successes supported
only by case reports or anecdotal data, rather than carefully designed research
studies, warrants further investigation and discussion before prescribing,
according to the AAP.
The American Academy of Pediatrics is an organization of 67,000 primary care pediatricians, pediatric medical subspecialists and pediatric surgical specialists dedicated to the health, safety and well-being of infants, children, adolescents and young adults. For more information, visit www.aap.org and follow us on Twitter @AmerAcadPeds