First Advisor

Christine M. Cress

Date of Publication


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (Ed.D.) in Educational Leadership: Postsecondary Education


Educational Leadership


Children with disabilities, Physical therapy for children, Maternal health services, Parent and child, Physical therapists



Physical Description

1 online resource (2, 201 pages)


Children with disabilities are not the sole clients of the pediatric physical therapy practitioner. However, research, best practice, and federal mandated legislation oblige therapists to transition from a traditional medical child-centered model of intervention to a family-centered model. This model places an emphasis on instructing parents, guiding their development as the dominant change agent for their children. Viewing parents as the predominant learner during intervention sessions is hampered by the paucity of family-related and adult-learning content in the professional preparation programs in higher education. It is further inhibited by professional attitudinal beliefs that continue to place a higher value on child characteristics for clinical decision making.

This qualitative study explored the scope of four private practice pediatric physical therapists' role as a parent coach. Each therapist was videotaped with two young children diagnosed with movement dysfunction and their mothers. Using a coaching framework presented by Hanft, Rush, and Shelden (2004), therapist/parent interactions were analyzed within the phases of initiation, observation/action, reflection, and evaluation. In addition, interpretation of these observations was also viewed through the theoretical lenses of adult learning and motor learning.

The findings indicated that parent coaching was minimally employed by these four therapists. The lack of family-centered focus, minimal adult learning theory knowledge/application and nominal motor learning application to parental handling skill development further establishes a diminished attention to the potential for building parent competence. The research-to-practice gap confirmed a need in professional preparation and continuing education. Recommendations are made for a holistic model that includes application of both adult and motor learning in conjunction with a coaching model.


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Persistent Identifier