World Physiotherapy Day: An interview with Asia Morton, our Specialist Paediatric Physiotherapist
What is physiotherapy?
Physiotherapy aims to help treat children and young people with physical problems as well as providing support for families and carers. There are two dedicated physiotherapists who work across the IPP wards (Butterfly, Bumblebee and Hedgehog). Physiotherapy is divided into two main areas respiratory physiotherapy and rehabilitation. Physiotherapy treats children with short and long-term conditions which impact on their physical development, activity and ability to participate in play, learning and socialising. Physiotherapy covers a wide variety of specialities including neurology, respiratory, haematology, oncology, bone marrow transplant, cardiac and neurosurgery.
Following a physiotherapy assessment if the child or young person has ongoing therapy needs a treatment program will be put together. For younger children, this will be focused on key positions to aid the development of skills such as rolling, sitting, standing and walking. For older children, the rehabilitation may be focused more on strengthening, balance, and activity participation. Some children require assessment and issue of specialist physiotherapy equipment such as standing frames, walkers or orthotics. This will be assessed and requested. Parents will also be taught how to practice positions and exercises with their children, and a paper program may be provided.
If children require respiratory physiotherapy this may involve different techniques and airway clearance devices which help the lungs remain clear of secretions. This will be assessed by the physiotherapist on an individual basis.
The physiotherapy sessions may happen on the ward in patient’s rooms, in the playroom on the ward, in the physiotherapy gym, hydrotherapy pool or outdoors in the park depending on the needs of the child or young person.
Physiotherapy work with many other therapists; occupational therapy, speech and language therapy and play therapists and psychology as part of the wider multidisciplinary team on IPP. Goals will be set for each child or young person based on activities the child or family identify that want to achieve.
Why did you decide to be a paediatric physiotherapist?
I have always wanted to work with children, however, it was not until I did some work experience in a paediatric hospital with a variety of different specialities including doctors, audiologists and physiotherapists that I realised that physiotherapy was my area of interest. I have always been very keen in participating in activities, particularly dancing, swimming and sport and this role enables me to both work with children and promote activity and exercise. I feel very lucky to do the job I do, I get to help children to get strong and this often has a huge impact on their life and participation in activities.
What type of physiotherapy do you specialise in, and what does this mean?
Many physiotherapists specialise in a specific area such as respiratory which mainly focus’ on children’s breathing, neurology which helps rehabilitation after brain injury or orthopaedic which helps children rehabilitate after the orthopaedic injury. I am very lucky in my role on IPP as I get to cover a wide range of specialities; I see most of the patients on the ward and can go from assessing and treating a child with a complex brain injury to carrying out respiratory treatment, to treating a patient with developmental delay. There are some areas where more specialist physiotherapist will come and see children for example for serial casting in babies with clubfoot, or for assessment of complex movement disorder medications.
What is the one misconception around physiotherapy you would like to dispel, and why?
I think working on IPP one of the largest misconceptions that I have come across is that families think physiotherapy carries out passive movements and massage for children. This is often what physiotherapy has done for patients back in their home country. There is actually very little evidence that this type of treatment makes any difference. All the treatment that I carry out is based on the most current evidence that has been published in studies alongside clinical expertise. There are often different treatment options such as exercise, splinting and positioning that are much more effective than 30 minutes of massage. If families are keen to learn massage we are more than happy to demonstrate this.