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AAP Report Advises on Therapy Services for Children with Disabilities

Boy in speech therapy. Boy in speech therapy.

An American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) clinical report in the April 2019 Pediatrics describes how health care providers can best connect the rising number of children who have disabilities with evidence-based therapy services in hospital, community, home and school settings. 

Prescribing Physical, Occupational and Speech Therapy Services for Children with Disabilities” highlights the importance of coordinating care with therapists to help children gain or recover key skills.    

“Understanding how certain conditions impact the way children function day-to-day is becoming increasingly important, because more and more children are living with complex health conditions and disabilities,” said the report’s lead author, Amy J. Houtrow, MD, PhD, MPH, FAAP, FAAPMR. Childhood disability, especially from neurodevelopmental conditions, is increasing, according to the report. This includes acquired disability, such as from a broken bone or traumatic brain injury, as well as ongoing conditions such as cerebral palsy.

“The goals we have for children with disabilities are the same goals we have for all children--for them to be happy, healthy and able to participate fully in life,” Dr. Houtrow said. “Physical, occupational and speech therapy can help children reach these goals by developing new skills, regain lost skills, and accommodate for skills that may not be developed or regained.”

Authors of the report warn against prescribing unproven therapies. For example, some people use hyperbaric (pressurized) oxygen to treat cerebral palsy.  This treatment has not been proven effective and could have harmful effects to the child. In general, treatment successes supported only by case reports or anecdotal data, rather than carefully designed research studies, warrants further investigation and discussion before prescribing, according to the AAP.

Additional Information from


3/25/2019 12:00 AM
The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.
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