Nicole Sturgill, PT, DPT does gait training exercises with a young patient.
There are many different types of gait and balance disorders. They include toe walking, balance issues, developmental delay as well as medical diagnoses such as concussion and cerebral palsy.
“Balance and gait go hand in hand; you can’t have one without the other,” said Nicole Sturgill, PT,DPT, who works in pediatrics at Bacharach’s main campus. “You need to master balancing before gait, which leads to running, jumping, skipping, and galloping. Everything builds on each other which is why evaluation is so important.”
Typically patients from infants to 18 years old are referred by a pediatrician or an orthopedist. The patients are examined to learn where their deficits are to determine the individual’s needs and goals. When developing the child’s goals the pediatrics team consults the child’s family because different families have different goals.
“We reassure parents that their child is going to be ok,” said Nicole. “Parents are a big part of the therapy process. It is important to educate parents on their child’s diagnosis and help them understand that their child is going to grow up being a happy, healthy kid, they might just need a little help from us.”
Treatment for gait and balance disorders differs for children and adults.
“Little kids like to go to the park where they have to be able to balance when climbing up ladders and other equipment,” said Nicole. “The main goal of therapy for a child is to get them back on a level where they can keep up with their peers. Adults want to be able to get back to work and the gym so their therapy goals and exercises are not the same as those of a child.”
In addition to their therapy program at Bacharach, the pediatrics team also develops a home program for patients. The home program encourages different kinds of play and can include specific exercises like seeing how long a child can ride a bike.
“Both the therapy and the home programs are designed for the child to have fun,” said Nicole. “We don’t want the child to burn out; we want them to have a desire to work to get better.”
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