1. What is the International Classification of Functioning?


We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.      Aristotle

Question: Why would you want to use the ICF as a tool in pediatric PT?

Answer:  The ICF will help you access and organize your knowledge on a whole new level.

I was first introduced to the ICF during a section at the 2001 NDTA  conference.  I came away from that conference and immediately restructured the way I was approaching my more complicated clients.  I was a fairly new PT at that time and goodness knows I needed some help prioritizing.  I filled in the ICF domains in what could best be described as a redundant mess.  I pondered the domains after work hours and during my morning commute.  It was difficult.  It was confusing.   I struggled to decide where to start, what to put in each domain and how things were related.  Eventually after the fog and lost feeling began to wane I realized that I was changing…the ICF was allowing me to see how everything worked together!   I started to be more observant and more curious.   I started to understand how activities allowed participation in the really enjoyable things in life and, conversely, how activity limitations prevented participation in meaningful areas of life.  A completed ICF directed me to ask parents and children important questions about their daily experience and to really listen to the answers.  It led me to notice how impairments, activities, participation, personal and environmental factors are intricately related. After a long while,  I began to feel the benefits of being more efficient at clinical decision-making.  I started to see myself as part of a larger team.  I contacted parts of the team outside of the immediate clinic environment,  the people in the child’s life that I had never met.  I was able to stand back and see the big picture and how all the little pieces of functioning make the child’s world.  The ICF showed me the strengths to build on and the gaps to address.  The ICF was a map showing me what was most important to the family and to me as the physical therapist and why it was important.    I’m still working on this some sixteen years later.  It’s a long process, but it’s what makes the job of pediatric physical therapy so much fun and also so meaningful.

This is the first of several posts on my experience with the ICF.  I hope it can get you started on your journey with this amazing tool.




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