Purpose: (1) To outline frameworks for neonatal physical therapy based on 3 theoretical models, (2) to describe emerging literature supporting neonatal physical therapy practice, and (3) to identify evidence-based practice recommendations.
Key points: Three models are presented as a framework for neonatal practice: (1) dynamic systems theory including synactive theory and the theory of neuronal group selection, (2) the International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health, and (3) family-centered care. Literature is summarized to support neonatal physical therapists in the areas of examination, developmental care, intervention, and parent education. Practice recommendations are offered with levels of evidence identified.
Conclusions: Neonatal physical therapy practice has a theoretical and evidence-based structure, and evidence is emerging for selected clinical procedures. Continued research to expand the science of neonatal physical therapy is critical to elevate the evidence and support practice recommendations.