My name is Tori Sloane, and I’m the Pediatric Physiotherapist at Fit4Life Physiotherapy in Winnipeg, Manitoba. 

I am very passionate about Physiotherapy. It has helped me and my family so much throughout our lives, that I’ve always wanted to show others how it can help them, too. I also adore children, so putting my two loves together gives me the best job in the entire world!

Here’s a brief history of how I began my journey studying Pediatric Physiotherapy:

I graduated from the University of Manitoba with a Bachelor’s Degree in Physiotherapy in 2010. In 2018, we were blessed with our first child. We received a diagnosis of Down Syndrome ten days after his birth. My first instinct was, “How can I help him?” We then travelled to the USA as a family, where I took a Pediatric Physiotherapy course. I have since taken more courses to help children.  The knowledge I gained has been so helpful for my son and all the other children I’ve been lucky enough to help in the Clinic ever since. 

The reasons behind how Pediatric Physiotherapy can help your child are vast. Children have many motor skills to learn in their first years of life – from achieving head control to taking their first independent steps. Sometimes challenges can come up along the way. The motor skills learned in infancy will set the child up for the rest of their development.  My goal is to help children and their caregivers achieve these skills and milestones.

Muscle Tone

Muscle tone is the resistance or tension to movement in your muscles. For example, you can feel your muscle tone if you pinch your bicep while your arm is relaxed. The resistance you feel is your muscle tone.

Muscle tone allows you to maintain good posture when sitting, controls your reflexes, and facilitates movements throughout your body. 

Hypotonia (low muscle tone), ie. Down Syndrome 

Low muscle tone can happen due to poor oxygenation right before or after birth, or as a result of a genetic disorder such as Down Syndrome. These kiddos often feel like rag dolls and feel “ floppy” when they’re held.

Children with low muscle tone have extremely flexible joints, as well as muscle weakness and poor coordination. Difficulty with head control is a common concern (their head will fall forward, backward, or to the side).

Hypertonia (High Muscle tone), ie. Cerebral Palsy 

Hypertonia is less common than hypotonia (low muscle tone) in babies, which is the most common condition that affects a newborn’s motor skills. Hypertonia will make it difficult for your child to move their arms and legs due to the high tone, which creates a lot of rigidity throughout their body.  

Challenges occur in reaching motor milestones.  For example, a child may have difficulty walking because their limbs are very stiff and lack fluid motion. This leads to poor balance and falling. 

Premature Infants 

Children born prematurely often have motor milestone delays. This is because they are typically born months or weeks too early – before their little bodies and nervous systems could fully develop.

Upon assessing premature infants, Physiotherapists always assess corrected age which is calculated as:

Chronological age (weeks) – weeks of prematurity = corrected age.

Torticollis & Plagiocephaly

This is very common in newborns and is due to birth-related shortening of the sternocleidomastoid muscle. Right-sided torticollis, for example, will result in right side bending and left rotation (face rotates to the left). Torticollis then further can be exacerbated by positional preferences, strength imbalances and then lead to loss of range of motion. If this isn’t corrected, it can result in plagiocephaly, which is asymmetrical occipital flattening of the head. This needs to be treated in the first year of life to avoid other motor delays. 

This is quite simple to treat with Physiotherapy, and early intervention is key! Helmets may be prescribed for some children with a larger flattened area of the skull. 

Developmental Delay

Lastly, sometimes, there’s no specific reason a child may be behind in attaining motor milestones. Perhaps they have a preference for a side or position. Or maybe their environment stimulates them to progress in a different pattern.

A child doesn’t have to explore their environment if their siblings are always bringing them toys!

Or perhaps your child had severe reflux and/or colic and was unable to tolerate much tummy time.

All of the above (and more) are reasons milestones may be delayed. Because a lot of this population has never been diagnosed, they’ll probably be the last ones to receive any publicly funded resources.

How can Pediatric Physiotherapy help? After a thorough assessment of current milestones, as well as areas of weakness and range of motion restrictions, an individualized exercise program will be created for your child. Along with this, we’ll be educating caregivers (with tips and tricks) to optimize assisting their infant to achieve these motor milestones. 

In summary, there are vast amounts of reasons children can benefit from Pediatric Physiotherapy in Winnipeg. Children with developmental delays, genetic conditions, trauma during birth, as well as, many other concerns like torticollis/plagiocephaly and prematurity can be greatly assisted. Services like these are available through Manitoba Health in the public sector, but unfortunately, the wait time is tremendous and very discouraging for parents.

Fortunately, many individuals have third-party insurance coverage to seek Physiotherapy services in a clinic setting. 

I am grateful every day for the ability to help children. It’s so very rewarding and a ton of fun along the way!