Playing with a Purpose: An Elective Pediatric Integrated Clinical Education Experience


Although pediatrics is often considered a specialty area, the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE) and the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) Section on Pediatrics support inclusion of pediatric content in entry-level physical therapy curriculums. Rapport et al have discussed the essential competencies as defined by the Education Summit in 2012 to provide guidelines for consistency in content delivery in entry-level PT curriculum. Despite clear guidelines, limited opportunities for students to apply didactic knowledge and develop clinical skills persist. Many students have very few laboratory hours working with children to gain hands-on experience. Cherry and Knutson report that clinical instructors have concerns about student preparation in the areas of examination, intervention, and decision-making skills. An integrated clinical education experience may be a feasible way to provide this missing link between knowledge and clinical skills. The purpose of this platform presentation is to describe an integrated clinical education experience to fill the gap of limited pediatric clinical experience for physical therapy students.


A series of three one credit elective courses was designed to integrate didactic pediatric curriculum and the hands-on skills necessary to work with pediatric clients. The first course exposes students to working with children with special needs and their families in an interdisciplinary community-based weekly recreational program. The second course refines examination and evaluation skills by identifying physical impairments. Implementation of developmentally appropriate therapeutic activities also occurs. In the third course, students work with one family to provide all aspects of physical therapy examination and intervention over 11 weeks. The courses were initiated and feedback was collected from Clinical Instructors and students following each course.


Themes that emerged from Clinical Instructors indicated increased student engagement, brainstorming to improve clinical reasoning skills, and a valuable learning experience. Students reported increased application of didactic knowledge, practical hands-on skills, and confidence when working with children and families.

Conclusions/Relevance to the conference theme: Shaping the Future of Physical Therapy Education

An integrated pediatric clinical education elective series is a feasible way to provide students critical hands-on pediatric clinical experience.


Kenyon LK, Dole RL, Kelly SP. Perspectives of academic faculty and clinical instructors on entry-level DPT preparation for pediatric physical therapy practice. Physical Therapy. 2013;93(12):1661-1672

Rapport MJ, Furze J, Martin K, Schreeiber J, Dannemiller LA, DiBiasio PA, Moerchen VA. Essential competencies in entry-level pediatric physical therapy education. Pediatr Phys Ther. 2014: 26;7-18

Cherry DB, Knutson LM. Curriculum structure and content in pediatric physical therapy: results of a survey of entry-level physical therapy programs. Pediatr Phys Ther. 1993: 5;128-133

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  • Control #: 2290397
  • Type: Posters
  • Event/Year: ELC2015
  • Authors: Dr. Michelle Donahue
  • Keywords:

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