7 Ways Physical Therapists Can Help Children Feel Less Anxious

For many patients a physical therapy visit can be intimidating. For children, this is especially true. A physical therapy exam room is full of unfamiliar things and noises. A frightened child makes for a difficult patient, and helping them through a session can be challenging. Take a look at these 7 tips to help relieve your young patient's anxiety while they are in therapy with you.

Include a Little Piece of Home

Before a physical therapy appointment, encourage their parents to bring something familiar with them on their visit. This could be a blanket, stuffed animal or favorite toy. The sight, smell and feel of something familiar from home is comforting and helps reduce anxiety.

Make it Look Friendly

The waiting room is the first place to make a kid-friendly impression. Instead of plain, institutional, and functional décor, make it bright and happy with plenty of color. Add pictures, toys and books for them to look at and play with.

If you have no control over the appearance of the waiting room, then make your exam room more kid-friendly. Have stuffed animals, toys, and pictures hanging on the walls. Your exam room will be a happy place rather than an intimidating doctor's office.

Be Calm 

Worry, fatigue and stress are contagious. If you are having a bad day at work, your actions and voice will show it. Your little patients will feel it too. But it's up to you as caregiver to be strong and calm, which are also contagious. You can help your little patients relax by breathing calmly and speaking with assurance.

Play Music

Just like lively music inspires and excites, soothing music can make a patient feel physically relaxed and emotionally soothed. Play soft music in the exam room to help patients feel better about what's happening.

Communicate With Your Patient

This doesn't mean ask them about the weather. Instead, communicate to them and explain what is going to happen, what you will do, and what they should expect before and during procedures. They're probably worried that they might feel pain or have a shot. If children have a better understanding for the reasons behind your actions, they will feel more in control and more at ease.

Don't use medical jargon or incomprehensible terminology. Speak in kid-friendly phrases at a level they'll understand. Also, explain and demonstrate what various machines and medical devices in the exam room are for. Let them hear their own heartbeat with a stethoscope or pump the blood pressure cuff. Little patients will be proud of their new knowledge.

Distract Them

While you are in the physical therapy exam room with a child, take their mind off their fears and distract them by asking them about their interests. How do they like school? Do they have pets? What do they like to eat? Any vacations? The more they share things about themselves and think about what to say, the less they are thinking about their fears.

Consider Outright Bribery

If children know they're going to get a reward at the end of the session, the more cooperative they will be. In the exam room explain to or show them what they can have after they've finished their therapy. This could be something sweet to eat, or something else if parents are against sugar. Many practices have treasure chests or treasure towers specifically for children to choose a toy from.

No single method is a guarantee for a relaxed, cooperative pediatric physical therapy patient. To learn more about how to create an inviting and friendly therapy session, contact resources that provide physical therapy jobs.