25 Jan 2022

How physiotherapy supports children with a disability

At Xavier, our team of experienced and qualified physiotherapists support children with a disability in Brisbane and surrounding areas including North Lakes, Wooloowin, Logan and Ipswich. We’re a passionate bunch of clinicians supporting children and young people to take part in the physical aspects of everyday life to the best of their ability. Let’s take a look at what this looks like for children and young people with complex and multiple physical disabilities.


Wait, what exactly is physiotherapy?

It’s a common misconception that physiotherapy is a treatment for sports injuries and other types of physical rehabilitation, for example after a surgery or an accident. While this is true, for children and young people with complex physical disability there’s a lot more to physiotherapy and the support that a physiotherapist provides.

For these children, physiotherapy can improve movement and function, reduce pain and stiffness and increase quality of life.


Who delivers physiotherapy?

Physiotherapy is delivered by a trained physiotherapist who must be registered with the Australian Health Practitioner Registration Agency (AHPRA). They must be university qualified, have insurance and be continuing their education.


What does a physiotherapist do?

A physiotherapist will diagnose and treatment a broad range of physical conditions involving muscles, bones, the cardiovascular system, nerves and other parts and systems of the body. Treatment will be tailored to each person and can include:


  • Tailored exercises
  • Joint manipulation
  • Stretching
  • Massage


For children with disability, physiotherapy can look a lot like play and is a lot of fun!


What is the role of a physiotherapist?

The role of a physiotherapist is to help individuals, including children, to improve their physical function. This role is wide and varied depending on the needs of each person. A physiotherapist might support an elderly person to walk safely, help a person to recover after surgery or support children to improve their physical ability.  


Is a physical therapist the same as a physiotherapist?

The term physical therapist is used more in America and Canada than in Australia but they are essentially the same thing. In Australia we use the term physiotherapist.


What is the difference between a physiotherapist, an osteopath and a chiropractor?

The roles of a physiotherapist, an osteopath and a chiropractor are very different! Here’s how:


Physiotherapist – physiotherapy is an evidence-based health profession that uses physical techniques to improve movement, reduce pain and stiffness, speed up the healing process and increase quality of life.

Osteopath – osteopaths look at how the body functions as a whole, by focusing on various aspects including skin, tissue, joints, muscles, organs and circulation. Treatment includes a combination of techniques including stretches, manipulation, massage and exercise.

Chiropractor – chiropractors diagnose, correct and prevent issues of the musculoskeletal system. They tend to treat with manipulation of the spine and limbs.

How does physiotherapy support children with a disability?

For children with disability, physiotherapy will look different for each child. It will depend on their diagnosis, ability and goals. Our physiotherapy team support children with complex physical disability to:


- develop, improve and maintain movement

- reach motor milestones such as crawling, walking, sitting and standing

- improve co-ordination

- improve mobility
- improve or maintain strength, muscle tone and flexibility

- recommend and prescribe mobility equipment

- manage pain and stiffness
- improve posture and body positioning
- provide respiratory support
- develop skills for play 


Further information

If you would like further information on how our team of physios can support your child with a disability,  simply complete our enquiry form or call 1800 XAVIER to chat to one of our friendly team members.