Pediatric physical therapist assistants work under the supervision of pediatric physical therapists to provide clients -- beginning as children through adulthood -- with the physical therapy they need to achieve their highest level of independence following a physical injury or disability. While some pediatric physical therapy assistants make a career out of this vocation, others assist physical therapists as part of their training to become physical therapist themselves.
Pediatric physical therapy assistants are required to hold a minimum of an associate degree in physical therapy in most states, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, or BLS. Training includes both academic and clinical experiences. Coursework covers subjects such as psychology, anatomy and biology, along with certifications in cardiopulmonary respiration and first aid. After they are hired, pediatric physical therapy assistants receive on-the-job training and supervision while performing duties such as patient electrical muscle stimulation, mechanical traction and locomotor training. Most states require pediatric physical therapy assistants be licensed, which requires proof of education and passing a test.
The BLS lists common skills necessary for all physical therapy assistants, including those working in pediatrics. These include compassion, a tendency to be detail oriented, manual dexterity, good interpersonal skills and physical stamina. Those working in pediatrics should like children and enjoy working with families. She should be able to explain technical concepts to children in a way they can understand. Pediatric physical therapy assistants should be willing to travel to patients' homes, schools, hospitals and clinics.
Pediatric physical therapy assistants assist pediatric physical therapists in tasks such as developing individualized treatment programs; helping children adapt their mobility patterns to increase independence in daily routines and activities; modifying children's toys so they are suitable for disabled children; and teaching children and their families to use equipment more effectively. Working under supervision, she will interview clients and their families, educate them on disabilities and treatment modalities and assist patients and their families in making school and life transitions.
The BLS projects job growth for physical therapy assistants to increase by 46 percent through 2020, compared to 14 percent for all surveyed occupations. Job prospects will be best in rural areas, as most pediatric physical therapy assistants look for work in cities. Legislations such as The Rehabilitation Act, Section 504 and The Americans with Disabilities Act protect disabled children and adults and guarantees their access to services. Such laws suggest pediatric physical therapists will continue to need their assistants to help them manage patient demand.
Brenda Scottsdale is a licensed psychologist, a six sigma master black belt and a certified aerobics instructor. She has been writing professionally for more than 15 years in scientific journals, including the "Journal of Criminal Justice and Behavior" and various websites.