Why to refer a child/family to a Physio? (and why not!)

The Movement Team offer a specific Paediatric Physiotherapy service, it is rarely obvious though when and why a baby or child should see a Physio. Below are some basic and general guidelines. We are also very happy to take questions, jump on the phone or chat in clinic to help you understand when we might be able to help and we we aren't the best people to see!


Why to refer a child/family to a Physio:


Because you are worried about how a baby or child is moving.


You might be worried because:

    • a specific injury or condition is impacting them
    • they are experiencing pain and it’s not clear why
    • they do not seem to be moving as well as you would expect for their age or experience
    • you (or they) would like to be better then they currently are at a specific activity, event or sport.


Additional factors that make seeing a Physio more valuable:

    • there are specific goals we can measure and work towards 
    • a child’s movement difficulties appear to be limiting their ability to do other things (play, learn, move around their environment etc).
    • there are parts of daily family life that are currently made more difficult by the child’s pain, movement difficulty or condition.


Why NOT to refer a child to Physio!


Physiotherapists are only one of many highly skilled and registered health professionals, there are often good reasons to see other professionals first, instead of, or as well as Physios.

Good examples of when not to see a Physio are when:

  • It is a significant and very recent injury that should first go to hospital or see a GP.
  • There is not parental consent or the parent/guardian is unable to attend the appointment with their child.
  • The difficulties are very unlikely to have any relationship to a movement, postural or physical skill/activity.

More specifically, we commonly see infants and children…

For Developmental Concerns:

  • Delayed infant milestones
  • Altered gait mechanics (e.g. Toe Walking)
  • Co-ordination concerns
  • Weakness or muscle tone concerns

For ‘Positional’ Infant Concerns:

  • Plagiocephaly
  • Head Orientation Preference
  • Positional Talipies

After Adverse Events:

  • Premature Birth
  • Brachial Plexus Injury
  • Surgical Events (E.g. recovery post Ortho/Cardiac/GIT intervention)
  • Trauma or Musculoskeletal Injuries

For Identified Conditions:

  • Cerebral Palsy
  • Muscular Dystrophy
  • Developmental Co-ordination Disorder
  • Genetic Syndromes
  • Congenital Structural Abnormalities

What Happens When a Physio Sees a Child?

The normal priorities of Physio sessions with The Movement Team still apply. These are to make sure we understand your concerns, that we all understand the condition and that we have a clear and useful plan to achieve meaningful goals.

For children (and babies especially) most treatment strategies revolve around exercises/skills that can be taught and then practiced outside of sessions. There are only few presentation types that require frequent or planned ‘blocks’ of appointments.





B.Phty (Hons), G.D. Paed. Neuro. Rehab.

Tim has 10 years of Physiotherapy experience almost exclusively working in Paediatric (Baby’s and Children’s) Physiotherapy. Tim’s the person to see if you have any concerns about your baby or child’s movement skills or development.

Tim is co-owner and director of The Movement Team. Tim provides developmental and paediatric Physiotherapy appointments. Tim also holds an Advanced Physiotherapist position and has led a Child Development Service in the public health sector. 

Tim has worked across the breadth of paediatric health (acute hospital, disability care, developmental, community and private clinics) and has completed numerous national and internationally recognised education courses in topics including developmental orthopaedics, high risk infant management, respiratory functioning and infant movement.

Tim's formal training consists of:

Bachelor Physiotherapy (Hons) - University of Queensland

Graduate Diploma Paediatric Neurological Rehabilitation - University of Western Australia

Tim additionally holds the following positions and memberships:

Chairperson of the Queensland Paediatric Physiotherapy Clinical Network 2013 - 2016

National Paediatric Group Member - Australian Physiotherapy Association



The clinical information included in this article is of a general nature and might not apply to every family. Please see your local health professional for individualised developmental advice.