Physical Therapy for Special Needs

With the services we provide, we are often asked “what is physical therapy for special needs and how is it different than personal training?  Many special needs clients have both an outside physical therapist and a personal trainer with Special Strong.  We often work in conjunction with therapists to provide a better experience for our clients.  Here are some of the similarities and differences between physical therapy for special needs and personal training for special needs

1.) Insurance

One of the many benefits of physical therapy for special needs is that it’s often covered by insurance, making it very affordable for families.  While this is a great benefit, we’ve found that most insurance companies only cover a limited number of visits, putting families in a difficult position when they need more therapy.  Physical therapists can cost as much as $300/an hour if you are without insurance.  We do believe that the service that physical therapists provide is worth every penny, but most families simply can’t afford that.

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With personal training, insurance is taken out of the equation, and a private pay price is used to render services.  This works well with most families’ budgets and allows the client to receive more personal training sessions than physical therapy sessions.  Additionally, there may be ways to write off personal training at the end of the year for a tax deduction (be sure and speak with your CPA for more information).

2.) Strength Equipment

When it comes to equipment, there’s a big difference in what personal trainers and physical therapists for special needs have.  An advantage of having a physical therapist (PT) is that they have a lot of specialized equipment. All of which they gear toward rehabilitation and injury management. In most cases, they have set treatment options, will only work with you for a short period time (depending on your insurance), and little to no training on how to work with the special needs population. The goal of a physical therapist is to rehabilitate the person as quickly as possible, allowing them to return to their daily lives.

In most instances, those with special needs often need more than physical therapy for special needs. They need a place they can go to on their own time. More importantly, they want to work with a personal trainer who is in it for the long haul. While the PT may have specialized equipment, personal trainers have access to gyms like Anytime Fitness. These gyms are chock full of the latest and best fitness equipment available. Working out in a gym can build lean muscle and help with weight loss.

3.) Knowledge

When it comes down to knowledge, both personal trainers and physical therapists for special needs have a lot of knowledge about how the body works.  However, physical therapists typically must go through seven years of college and MED school, earning their Doctorate along the way. They must also pass a series of state and national boards (tests). So, so their knowledge of anatomy and physiology is typically top-notch. However, their knowledge about physical therapy for special needs is probably very limited. All of this is what makes a physical therapist so well equipped to treat injuries and perform rehabilitation.

Many personal trainers have degrees in kinesiology, many have advanced certifications in providing training to those with special needs. This group would include some that are certified inclusive fitness trainers. An inclusive fitness trainer has taken the time to learn how to develop fitness plans for those with a variety of special needs. Among these special needs are; autism, Asperger’s, ADD/ADHD, cerebral palsy, down syndrome, obesity, spinal cord injuries, stroke victims, and many more. They’ll be able to create an individualized fitness plan for each client and then be there to help implement it.

Many of our team here at Special Strong have a degree while others have a handful of specialty certifications in fitness and working with special needs kids and adults.

4.) Approach

When performing physical therapy for special needs, therapists take an isolated approach to the problem they are trying to rehabilitate. For example, if you have sprained an ankle and visit your physical therapist that is what they will work on. Their goal is to rehabilitate the joints, tendons, ligaments, and muscles around your ankle. Beyond this, they do nothing for the rest of your body beyond the usual, “How are doing today?” greeting.

On the other hand, when you go to see your personal trainer, they take everything into account with a full-body approach to your physical health. Rather than focusing all their attention on one group of muscles, their form of physical therapy for special needs is to work on all muscles in the body. By doing this, they can tweak your personal fitness program as your needs change. This total body approach is great for your overall health and fitness.

While one of these approaches is not necessarily better than the other, you have to stop and consider what your goals are. Are you looking for short-term focused rehabilitation therapy? If so, a physical therapist might be the best choice. But if you have long-term health and fitness goals, you may find a personal trainer might be the right choice to meet your needs.

Physical Therapy for Special Needs: Enhancing Mobility and Quality of Life

Physical therapy for special needs children plays a pivotal role in enhancing their mobility, strength, coordination, and overall quality of life. Whether a child has cerebral palsy, Down syndrome, autism, or other developmental disorders, physical therapy can offer tailored interventions that address their unique challenges and help them reach their full potential. The focus is not simply on addressing physical limitations but also on promoting overall well-being through a holistic, individualized approach.

Children with special needs often experience impairments in their motor skills and functional abilities. Physical therapy aims to improve these skills through targeted exercises, manual techniques, and adaptive equipment. The benefits extend beyond physical health; improved mobility and strength contribute to better participation in school, community activities, and social interactions. By enhancing their physical capabilities, children gain greater independence and confidence.

Tailored Interventions

1. Individual Assessment: Every child’s needs are unique, making individualized assessment a critical first step. Physical therapists evaluate the child’s current physical status, including muscle strength, joint flexibility, balance, coordination, and motor skill development. This comprehensive assessment helps in formulating a personalized treatment plan.

2. Customized Exercise Programs: Based on the individual assessment, physical therapists develop customized exercise programs that address specific goals. These exercises often focus on improving muscle strength, joint mobility, balance, and coordination. Techniques such as stretching, strengthening, and aerobic exercises are commonly used.

3. Adaptive Equipment and Techniques: Utilization of adaptive equipment such as braces, walkers, or wheelchairs can significantly enhance a child’s mobility. Physical therapists also employ specialized techniques, such as aquatic therapy, which leverages the buoyancy of water to reduce the strain on joints while improving strength and coordination.

4. Sensory Integration: For children with sensory processing issues, particularly those on the autism spectrum, physical therapy often incorporates sensory integration techniques. These activities help children better process sensory information, which can reduce anxiety and improve overall motor functions.

The Benefits of Having a Physical Therapy for Special Needs

For people with special needs, physical therapy serves as an impactful method of enhancing not only physical health, but also overall quality of life. This kind of therapy involves a range of exercises and interventions. These are specifically targeted at improving patients’ motor skills, coordination, and muscle strength. Physical therapy addresses the unique challenges that accompany various conditions. It not only bolsters physical strength and ability, but also promotes greater independence in everyday tasks. Hence, it serves as an essential addition to the care plan.

Key Benefits of Physical Therapy for People with Special Needs:

1. Improved Motor Skills, Coordination, and Muscle Strength: Tailored interventions are designed to improve these areas, essentially assisting with physical growth while combatting specific difficulties related to different conditions.

2. Increased Independence in Daily Activities: As strength and coordination improve, those undergoing therapy often find that they can complete everyday tasks with less assistance. This contributes to a sense of independence and autonomy.

3. Enhanced Balance and Flexibility: Regular therapy can help foster better balance and flexibility, thereby reducing the risk of injuries and physical discomfort.

4. A Supportive and Encouraging Environment: Physical therapy sessions provide a space where individuals can socialize, interact with others, and build confidence. This, in turn, can have a positive impact on emotional well-being and self-esteem.

5. Personalized and Inclusive Approach: The nature of physical therapy ensures that each individual’s unique needs and abilities are considered, making it a highly personalized form of care. This fosters not only physical well-being but an overall holistic development and functional capabilities.

6. Preventative Care: Regular physical therapy helps individuals manage their condition better. It can contribute to slowing down a condition’s progression and even prevent secondary complications from developing.

How Do You Choose Between Personal Training and Physical Therapy for Special Needs?

So how do you decide if you should hire a personal trainer or a physical therapist for special needs people?  There is no easy solution unless you are injured and have insurance that covers physical therapy for particular needs. If you are fortunate enough to have insurance that covers physical therapy, we strongly advise you to pursue it.

A personal trainer is an excellent choice for those seeking a lasting fitness relationship, providing comprehensive support and guidance. Their expertise extends beyond fitness training, encompassing overall well-being. However, if you are looking for someone who can help you with strength training, weight loss, or cognitive improvements, then you should consider doing physical therapy in conjunction with personal training.

In our opinion, only after an injury, surgery, or rehabilitation would you desire physical therapy as a stand-alone service.  With either service, you can’t go wrong and will see the benefits.  Contact us today to get more information about personal training.

Special Strong provides adaptive fitness for children, adolescents, and adults with mental, physical and cognitive challenges. Start your own Special Strong gym franchise today and create a lasting impact on your community.