Physiotherapists support children through targeted, age-appropriate exercises that improve coordination, build motor skills, and optimise neuroplasticity as their brain grows. This early intervention can help your child reach their developmental milestones and live healthier, happier and more fulfilling lives.
In this blog, we’ll walk you through 5 NDIS supports available for children with developmental delays. Read on!
What are developmental delays?
When we talk about development delays, we’re referring to delays in achieving the foundational skills that children develop over time — for example, walking, self-dressing, toilet training and balance, to name a few. While it’s normal for children to reach milestones at different times, some developmental delays require professional intervention, while others do not.
Babies develop naturally at their own pace, so it’s important to be patient and encourage them along the way. It’s very easy to focus on what your baby is not achieving, but creating an environment where they feel safe and supported will allow them to flourish — so try and focus on your connection with your baby and having fun with them instead!
There are four key development areas for children ages 0-6:
- Gross and Fine Motor Skills — Everyday movements using large muscles (rolling, crawling and walking) and small muscles (writing, using utensils and playing with Legos).
- Language and Communication — Learning to speak and learning how to understand others.
- Cognitive Development — Thinking, problem-solving and exploring their environment. Cognitive development lays the foundation for lifelong problem-solving skills.
- Social and Emotional Development — Understanding themselves, their feelings and how to interact with others. This forms the basis for positive relationships and emotional expression.
All four types of development occur at the same time in the first few years, with language and communication and social and emotional development continuing to grow into their teenage years.
Parents or teachers often notice signs of developmental delays during playtime or group activities, such as:
- Difficulty holding their heads up.
- Delays with physical development milestones (such as rolling, sitting, crawling or walking).
- Challenges with fine motor skills (such as using utensils or playing with toys).
- Delayed or limited language development.
- Inattention to one side of the body — When a child ignores vision, hearing or feeling on the left or right-hand side of their body.
- Issues with problem-solving or understanding their environment.
- Difficulties with social interactions or emotional expression.
It’s important to note that your child must meet specific criteria to be covered for early intervention treatment under the NDIS. For more information, take a look at the NDIS guidelines for children ages 0-6.
What can cause developmental delays in kids aged 0-6?
Up to 15% of children under the age of 5 have a developmental disorder. Developmental delays in children can have various causes, such as:
- Genetics — Some babies are born with genetic conditions like Down Syndrome or Prader-Willi Syndrome that can cause developmental delays.
- Pregnancy complications — Certain complications during pregnancy can impact development, and babies who experience these complications should be closely monitored.
- Premature birth — Premature babies often reach milestones later than full-term babies and should receive developmental check-ups.
- Environmental stimulation — Lack of interaction and stimulation can hinder a baby’s overall development.
- Sick babies — Long-term illness, hospital stays, and family stress can temporarily affect a baby’s development.
However, some developmental delays occur without a clear cause. It’s also important to understand that developmental delays are not necessarily indicators of chronic or recurring issues with your child.
This is why it’s important to monitor your child during these early years and seek professional support if they show signs of developmental delays.
How physiotherapy can help kids reach their developmental milestones
Physiotherapy can help your child’s physical, emotional and social development, setting them up for healthy growth in their childhood and teenage years. Physiotherapy can help enhance posture, build muscle strength and improve coordination. This can lead to your little one achieving crawling, sitting and walking, helping them to understand the world around them.
Here are 5 NDIS physiotherapy treatments for children with developmental delays.
#1. Development for babies
Early intervention for young children with developmental delays is fundamental in providing them with the opportunities to maximise their skills. Physiotherapists provide early intervention for children with delays to their gross motor skills. For example, if your child is struggling to walk, a physiotherapist can provide strategies to encourage independent walking.
Physiotherapists will also work alongside other professionals such as occupational therapists and speech pathologists to ensure the child has the physical skills they need to complete everyday tasks — for example, balancing on the toilet or sitting independently to chew and swallow food.
If your child is not sitting by themselves by 9 months, crawling by 12 months, or walking by 18 months, we recommend an assessment of their gross motor skills.
#2. Assistive Technology
Children with developmental delays may require specialised equipment to support their movement and promote independence. Your physio may prescribe assistive equipment to help with developmental delays, such as:
- Standing Frames
- Supportive Seating
The right equipment can enhance mobility, improve posture and enable children to participate more actively in daily activities.
#3. Coordination & Gross Motor Skills Support
Treatments for coordination and gross motor skills focus on walking, running, balance, coordination, motor planning and strength. Your physio will assess your child to understand their physical challenges and create a tailored treatment plan. These plans often include home exercises and activities that support their development.
If your child shows signs of clumsiness, frequent tripping, trouble with balance, difficulty following movement patterns or fatigue, their coordination and gross motor skills may be delayed. Delays in other areas such as toileting and self dressing can sometimes be linked to poor coordination, if your child is struggling with these tasks a review by a Physiotherapist may be beneficial.
Physiotherapy can build muscle strength through movement exercises and task-specific activities that improve balance and enhance motor planning.
#4. Walking Assessments
Walking difficulties are common in early childhood as your little one starts exploring, and sometimes they can persist into adulthood
Here are some signs your child may need a walking assessment:
- If your child hasn’t begun walking by 18 months.
- If your child trips or falls excessively. However, occasional tripping is normal in young children.
- If your child’s feet point inwards or too far outwards. Most children’s feet should point straight ahead or slightly outwards.
- If your child has knocked knees or bowlegs.
- If your child has flat feet.
#5. Aquatic Therapy
Aquatic therapy uses water to support the body, aid movement and increase strength with low impact. It is typically conducted in a warm pool heated to around 33-36°C to help with muscle relaxation.
The benefits of aquatic physiotherapy include increased freedom and confidence to move, muscle relaxation and improved flexibility from the warmth.
Plus, it’s lots of fun!
For children with developmental delays, aquatic physiotherapy can provide a fun alternative to land based therapy, it can help to build strength and develop movement patterns. Being in the water can aid body awareness and coordination, all of which can help maximise physical skills.
Ready Steady Therapy offers fun, effective mobile physiotherapy for children with NDIS funding
Every child is different, which means your little one will develop at their own speed and reach their essential developmental milestones at different times. While it’s normal for children to lag in some areas, it’s important to observe your child from ages 0-6 and take note of signs of delays.
At Ready Steady Therapy, we provide holistic mobile physiotherapy wherever you need it. Whether you need early intervention physiotherapy at home, at school or at daycare, our children’s physiotherapists will support your child where they feel most comfortable across Sydney, the Inner West, the Eastern Suburbs, Western Sydney, St George and surrounding areas.
We work with plan-managed or self-managed NDIS funds to ensure your child gets the care they need. We also offer flexible scheduling, providing weekly or fortnightly sessions tailored to your child’s requirements.
After our initial consultation, we’ll create a comprehensive development plan that will get your child on the right track and set them up for success. Plus, don’t forget to bring their favourite toys along — we can incorporate them into their therapy, too!