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5 Tips for a Successful First Visit with a Physical Therapist

Natalie Diaz by Natalie Diaz Additional Needs

Natalie Diaz

Natalie Diaz

I received my Doctorate in Physical Therapy in 2009 and am a board certified Pediatric Clinical Specialist working as a pediatric physical therapis...

1. Make sure your child is rested and ready for the first visit

When your child is tired, not feeling well, or just having a bad day, it will likely make for a challenging physical therapy evaluation.

When this happens, then your child may not perform as well as you know they can, which can sometimes be challenging for parents to experience.

From the physical therapist point of view, I feel that if a child is not rested and ready for an evaluation, there tends to be a less than perfect rapport building moment.

If a parent were to call me and ask if they can reschedule for the above reason, I will usually agree so that the first visit can be a positive experience for everyone.

2. Be ready with birth history and milestones

Having this information ready will help an evaluation progress quickly onto the next step of the physical therapy evaluation.

It can also be useful to just have this information prepared in a preprinted document for when you go to other medical appointments.

Also, don’t forget to list any and all milestones that you find important.

3. Have any and all questions ready to ask your physical therapist

For those families who have never been to any therapy appointments, they usually have so many questions that they are ready to ask and then forget to ask all of them.

I think it’s best to have a prewritten list of questions to make sure all your questions/concerns are brought up to your physical therapist.

I welcome all types of questions from parents and will do my best to answer them within my scope of practice.

I want to make sure parents feel like they got something positive out of coming to a physical therapy evaluation and this includes answering any questions pertaining to their child.

4. Have your list of goals and expectations ready for your physical therapist

This step is a very important one! In order to build a positive relationship with my patients and their families, I make sure to discuss what my patients and their parents’ expectations and goals are for physical therapy.

Some parents think that they are telling the physical therapist what to do by being direct about what concerns/goals they have, but I want my families to know that I am working together with them and not ignoring their concerns.

The best way to do this is to make sure everyone is in agreement on what the goals and expectations are for physical therapy.

5. Be honest and open with your PT

They are there to help your child and help you!

This is my primary focus in my practice as a physical therapist.

I never want a family to feel uncomfortable or wary about me working with their child, so I always make sure to tell parents to let me know if they have any comments, questions, or concerns about anything I am doing in physical therapy sessions.

I am an advocate of open, clear communication with my patients and their families about what I am doing during evaluations and treatments because I feel that informed patients make the best patients.


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