Physical Therapy Evaluations and Autism | Interview with Dawn Meller

Dawn Meller is a pediatric physical therapist who has years of experience providing physical therapy services as well as physical therapy evaluations. Dawn works with a wide spectrum of ages starting with 2 weeks and even going into the mid to late 20s. At the clinic, she consults with multiple disciplines when working with children with autism and early signs of autism, to pinpoint what she sees as a PT and what other specialists may see to best help the children and their families.

Using checklists when working with a child or when talking to the parents can help figure out what is “going on”. Dawn works closely with the family, to talk about signs and get them to the correct doctors. When seeing parents, they could be in denial or eager for a professional to see the signs they are seeing, so being open and communicative through every step is crucial. All of this is helpful whether the child has autism or not.

There are signs and milestones we can look for in the first year of life and beyond that may be a cause for concern. We talk about torticollis, toe-walking, and W-sitting as well as basic motor milestones for babies. There are many things PTs and parents can do to build basic motor skills with intention, such as modified tummy time and limiting the time spent in “containers”.

When in doubt about any motor planning or basic motor skills, do not hesitate to seek out a PT for evaluation or therapy. When looking for an evaluation for a birth to 3 child, it is a free or inexpensive medical service to be referred to through your pediatrician, but it is also accessible for an older child through your local school district. Early intervention is important and helps make students successful in their environment and elevates inclusion.

An interesting specialty Dawn Meller has is bowel and bladder work, a key piece in potty training. Creating potty independence is another important piece to elevating inclusion and being able to accomplish daily life basics. Dawn is hosting a Potty Summit in July, which she says is also great for helping your child and maintaining a less stressed life as a family!


Dawn Meller is a pediatric physical therapist specializing in pelvic floor work. She has been a PT for 13 years and started working in the schools after graduation. She has been at a clinic for 5 years and loves working with kids and their families. She also has a Masters’s degree in Community and Family Counseling and has worked with children in several different settings. She lives with her husband Chris and their 8-year-old son. She enjoys reading, pool time in the summer, and traveling.


  • What do toe-walking and W-sitting mean?
  • What is torticollis?
  • When young babies and children should be meeting milestones.
  • When you should be concerned or get a PT evaluation.
  • What a PT can do for young and older children.
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RESOURCES (Sign up for a free workshop online for parents and professionals)
How to Get a Parent Out of Autism Denial
How to Recognize Early Signs of Autism in Toddlers Using MCHAT
#024: Jenna P. (Autism Mom): Autism + Other Diagnoses and Risk of Autism in Siblings
#073: Dore Blanchet: Occupational Therapy for Autism & Telehealth
#069: Autism Self Care Skills: Potty Training, Sleep, Dressing & More
Potty Training E-book
Potty Talk: Bowel, Bladder and Beyond Summit
email: [email protected]