Tag Archives: physical therapy

The Importance of Enthusiasm

by Jennifer Latt

This year has been unique for all of us in so many ways.  If I am being completely honest, I have to admit that when we were told we were moving towards doing virtual therapy this past spring, I thought “I can’t do it!”  I had no vision how this could take place and I doubted myself even more.  I have learned it takes a lot of planning and communication with the families.  When I work in the Easterseals building, it is pretty easy for me to roll in and get started with a session.  I have been working in the physical therapy department for years.  I have a plethora of ideas in my head that I can pull out for whatever I think we need to work on that day.  I know what the PT gym has in it, as far as things to play with and use, to help our children meet their sensory needs.  At first, I thought “how am I going to get all this information across to parents?”   I began to do my research on virtual sessions and then I needed to just buckle down and give it a shot.

My first plan of attack was to come up with what I wanted to accomplish with my session for a particular child.  Next, I would try to find pictures of the activities or I would actually have my son step in and I would take pictures of me helping him in different positions to show families what I was doing.  I would email these plans to the parents the night before so they could prep.  I also asked families to give me a list of items that they had at home, favorite toys, and even take a picture of their playroom so I knew what I could work with.

It has truly been a joy to be able to connect with families during this time.  I know that most people would not wish to be trapped at home trying to work and teach their kids and get their therapies in.  However, it has been so amazing for me to be able to connect with families and get the opportunity to see how they interact.  It has also been beneficial for families to get a greater understanding of what we do and why we do certain activities.

The one obvious down side of all of this for me has been the frustration of not being hands on with the children and not always being able to elicit the intended results.  Flexibility has been the key!  I want to applaud all the parents out there who have had to put their homes and their lives on display.  It is not easy trying to take over the role of therapist or teacher, and understand what we are asking you to do.  Know that from my point of view I think the families have been remarkable through all of this.  The most important thing I wanted to share is, that as parents, you need to allow yourselves to be silly during your sessions with your children.  I know that taking on the role of therapist can be intimidating and overwhelming with all of your other responsibilities. In my experience, I know that when I show some silliness, it makes for a much more productive and fun session for not only the child, but also myself. Some of my most fun sessions are often the most engaging and productive. So give yourself permission to not stress about doing it perfectly, and just enjoy this time as much as possible. Your energy sets the tone for your child.

I would like to give several life examples of how this could play out.  I coach high school basketball.  It is easy for me to order the girls around and tell them to run and do one activity after the other. If this was always my approach, they would quickly resent me.  Instead, I constantly cheer them on and offer positive reinforcement.  I run with them and do the activities too, so they know they are not alone.  I offer incentives.  For so many free throws made, I will make them brownies.  If a player really hustles during a game I will bring them a treat.

Both of my children started taking Suzuki piano at a very young age.  It was incredibly difficult and stressful to say the least, especially for my son.  He learns differently and memorizing very complex songs was at times an impossible task.  We did fight!  Yet, I knew this was good for him in so many ways.   I could have continued to fight or I could change my ways.  I came up with incentives.  I would cheer him on and hug him.  I would have incentive charts for so many repetitions of lines played.  I would have his figurines lined up on the piano and when he played through a required line we would play make believe with the figurines.

As parents, when you are asking your children to do activities for school or therapy, don’t be afraid to cheer and get silly and dance around, and make it fun.  Be willing to do the activities with your kids or do it first and then have them do it.   During music time, clap your hands and sing and dance with your kids. If you put on an exercise video, then put on a funny workout outfit and do it with your kid.  During PT for example, if your child has to kick a ball so many times, then when he is done lift him up and spin him around or give him hugs and tickle him so that he associates having fun during therapy.  If you are ever in the Easterseals building when I am doing therapies, you are likely to hear me singing bad renditions of made up songs about what we are doing in the moment.  I even like to break out with Queen’s ”I like to ride by bicycle” when working on riding a bike.  I promise, that we as therapists, are not going to laugh at your silliness during the sessions.  You and your child will feel much better and connected to each other when the task is fun and not just something to get done.  I know that this may all seem like common sense but often we get bogged down with just getting the task done or fitting as much as we can in our allotted times that we forget what it feels like to be a kid.

I want to end with one of my favorite pictures of my son from when he was little.  He had just received this dress up outfit for his birthday.  The pure joy on his face at dressing up and being silly is priceless.  Try to embrace this kind of enthusiasm when you are working on tasks at home.  Don’t give up.  Learning to let yourself go and be silly takes time.  If you have a bad day and a session with your therapists or teachers doesn’t go as planned, forgive yourself and your child.  Every day is a new opportunity.

A Parent’s perspective

Easterseals Physical Therapist, Melody Katz has been providing home-based physical therapy to Violet, a baby girl who has Down syndrome. The family is very loving and nurturing and Melody has enjoyed working with Violet. Her father wrote an article about Violet for Down Syndrome Awareness month that was published by the Courier Times and he allowed us to share.

You can see the original article here.

Coming up Violet this October for Down Syndrome Awareness

By John Anastasi

Born in May, Violet Anastasi has trisomy 21, an extra copy of the 21st chromosome that causes the characteristics associated with Down syndrome.

There are 31 days in October. Last year, Down syndrome crossed my mind during none of them. That was me in 2019. Before Violet.

Recognizing October as Down Syndrome Awareness Month may be one of the least significant things my daughter has taught me in the five months since I held her for the first time in the maternity unit of Capital Health Hopewell in Pennington NJ.

We knew before we arrived at the hospital on that Tuesday morning in May that our Violet had trisomy 21, an extra copy of the 21st chromosome. That additional piece of genetic material causes the characteristics associated with Down syndrome.

A prenatal screening had revealed the trisomy 21 way back in November. My wife Emily and I grappled with the news that Violet would likely be the one baby of 700 born in the United States with Down syndrome.

It was hard. As all would-be parents probably do when they learn they’re expecting, Emily and I dreamed about what kind of life our child would have. We did the same thing before her older brother Luke was born in 2017. Receiving the diagnosis prompted a painful course correction.

The day we found out, we left work early. We did research, we prayed, we struggled. We built the ultimate “fake-it-until-you-make-it” narrative we’d employ when we told our families and friends the news: Don’t say you’re sorry. Don’t feel bad for us. We’re excited. Our baby is perfect. She is exactly what God intended and we’re going to work hard to be parents who are worthy of her. Yes, she may have related health problems and cognitive delays but her possibilities are still limitless.

Some days we meant what we said 100%. Other days, we faked it.

Emily threw herself into the research. She found specialists, joined Facebook groups for support, bought books, watched videos, tracked down people she knew with children that have Down syndrome and set up Zoom calls with them. Emily also ran point on Violet’s early intervention efforts.

No stone would be left unturned if there was a chance that beneath that stone was something that’d give our baby a better shot or help Emily be the mom her daughter needed.

We met our sweet Violet and fell head over heels for her. She was healthy. She also cleared a number of hurdles that’d worried us from the beginning. She has an atrial septal defect (a hole in the wall separating the two upper chambers of the heart) but it’s small and the specialists say it needs only to be monitored at bi-annual checks. If it does get larger, Violet’s a good candidate for a less-invasive surgery that can be done in a catheterization laboratory.

A friend told me “anytime the doctor sees it and says ‘come back in six months’ that’s a win.” I’m going with that.

As befitting her extra chromosome, Violet is extra everything — affectionate, happy and curious with a smile that can light up the darkest corners of our minds and hearts. She also exhibits a scrappy, stubborn side that comes out during her physical therapy sessions. But it’s her sweetness we keep coming back to. It’s as immeasurable as it is unconditional.

Violet is challenging us every day to follow her example by living joyfully, loving completely and trusting absolutely. 

Even in our first five months as the parents of a child with special needs, we’ve been touched by so many people, many of them here in Bucks County, who’ve welcomed us into this community.

Specifically, we’ll mention the fine work of everyone at Bucks County Early Intervention, Jack’s Basket, a nonprofit that provides congratulatory gifts, support and resources to the families of children with Down syndrome, and Nothing Down, which works with the medical community to promote compassionate notification of Down syndrome diagnoses, plus up-to-date education and resources. And we highly recommend the Bucks County Down Syndrome Interest Group and the Down Syndrome Diagnosis Network for parents looking to get connected.

We’d also like to thank those in the Commonwealth for speaking out in support of Pennsylvanians with Down syndrome earlier this month.

They include Pennsylvania First Lady Frances Wolf, who spoke of the need to “honor the contributions of individuals living the Down syndrome to our communities…” and human services Secretary Teresa Miller, who encouraged Pennsylvanians to play an active role in celebrating and uplifting the stories and experiences of our family, friends and neighbors with Down Syndrome so they can live an everyday life with inclusion and opportunities that they are entitled to and deserve.”

Today, we celebrate Violet’s story in the hopes that, by telling it, we can do something small to help secure an inclusive future world for Violet and all of her brothers and sisters with Down syndrome.

We can’t wait to see what Violet does next, what she’ll be like when she’s older, how she’ll stare down prejudices and push back on those who try to tell her what she can’t do. It’s going to be amazing.

A therapeutic gift from a friend!

by Kathryn Murphy, MSPT

My name is Kathryn and I am a Physical Therapist at Bucks. With all of the virtual services going on now, I do not have all of the tools at my home that I need for my sessions. I had a friend of mine, Mike, come to my rescue. I met Mike a few years ago at the indoor rock climbing gym where I climb. He recently purchased 3-D printer. He printed me a red shaker and even did a non-contact drop off!

This shaker filled with rice will help me:

  • Get the visual attention of my students with decreased vision.
  • As a teaching aide for parents. I can now show them exactly where to place a toy with their child when working on gross motor skills. I use a doll to help teach parents and now I have a toy!
  • Get the attention of the student using their hearing.
  • Cheer for my students in a fun way when they do something great!
  • Participate in music class with Ms. Amanda 😉

 

THANK YOU MIKE!

 

Make your home a playground!

by Melody Katz

Are your children getting antsy? Are you missing your favorite PT and OT? While we are all staying healthy there are simple things you can do at home to have fun, work off some of your child’s energy and best of all help their motor development!

For children not yet sitting:

  • Children NEED movement! Roll across the bed to the right and then to the left several times till the giggles abound. If your child is hesitant of movement roll them slowly one time each way and increase as they tolerate and enjoy the movement.
  • Put blankets and pillows in a hard square or rectangular laundry basket (or one of the many Amazon boxes we all have) and lie your child down and move them side to side, forward and back and around in circles. Make sure you spin to the right AND to the left stopping in between briefly.
  • If your child is light enough, lie them in a sheet or blanket and with the help of a friend or family member, swing them.
  • TUMMY TIME, TUMMY TIME, TUMMY TIME! Yes, it is important! Kids love to look at their beautiful selves in the mirror so put a small mirror on the floor or bed while they are on their tummies. If this is hard for them roll a small receiving blanket and put it under your child’s chest to help them lift up higher. Lie on YOUR tummy on the floor facing them. YOU are their best motivator and toy. Sing and be silly!!

For children who are sitting, but not yet crawling:

  • All of the above activities still work for your child. They can now sit up in the box or basket while spinning to help improve their core strength and balance.
  • Use that empty diaper box or Amazon box with toys on it and help your child play while kneeling.
  • If your child is starting to get on their hands and knees sing silly songs and encourage them to rock! Row, Row, Row Your Boat works well for this. Be silly and think of more lyrics!!

Row, row, row your boat

gently down the stream,

Mommy’s going crazy now,

listen to her Scream.

Ahhhhhhhh………………….

For Crawlers:

  • The above movement activities are still fun and good for them!
  • Make a crawling obstacle course! Put folded blankets, rolled towels and pillows on the floor for your child to crawl over! If you have a big box, open at both ends and let your child crawl through it! Good luck keeping up!!

For Walkers:

  • All the movement activities listed above will still be fun and good for development.
  • Make obstacle courses for walkers

Using pillows, fold a towel or blanket to a balance beam shape (a long rectangle 4”-8” wide”), stepstools, big textbooks, different sized boxes with some soup cans inside for stability for different sized steps, pile pillows on the floor to make a mountain and climb up to the sofa or bed. Do you have bubble wrap and other textured packing materials? They are really fun to walk on with bare feet!!

Most of all have fun, be silly, laugh and love! This too shall pass!! We miss you too!!

Shout Out to our Physical Therapist Alex

by Nequetta Alfred

Pediatric Physical Therapists (PT) are aware of the joy they bring to children and families who achieve great strides even under difficult circumstances. Pediatric PT’s find creative ways and techniques to work with our kiddos who struggle with walking, running, or even jumping. Alex is one of our amazing PT’s at Easterseals who invests her sessions into each child by developing that one to one relationship with the goal of reaching maximum potential. She is patient with our children and consults with all team members involved including our teachers, teacher assistant’s, personal care assistants (PCA’s), behavior therapists, nurses, and the entire team at Easterseals.

Every week she is on time for classroom meetings which start as early as 8:15 am and she is consistent in reaching out to the team to assure an holistic approach. She works well with anyone who comes in contact with and our kiddos love the fun and joy she brings to each session. We see positive results when our therapist are just as excited to work with our kids. If you see Alex please give her a high five or hug for a well done job on simply being amazing at what she does.

During the session in the picture the student received a ride from the PT room back to the classroom while stretching her muscles which was quite funny to the student. The PCA (Tama) was very helpful in assuring safety and consistency with the sessions. One thing we know at Easterseals is a framework that’s built on teamwork surely gets results with the kids who are near and dear to our hearts. It’s so cool to see kids return to class happy and ready for their next session. The student transitioned straight to music and had a great day throughout the remainder of the day. The students day may have started with her teacher or PCA, but clearly ends with understanding it takes a village to keep those beautiful smiles in place while assuring our therapeutic goals are being met.

 
Health conditions that pediatric physical therapists address include:
  • Cerebral palsy
  • Traumatic brain injuries
  • Chronic pain
  • Cystic fibrosis
  • Cancer
  • Scoliosis
  • Developmental delays and movement disorders resulting from premature birth
 
Resources for parents with kids with PT’s:
 
 
 

 

100 Years, a reflection with a former client

by Liz Graham

It’s 2019 and Easterseals is celebrating 100 years of service and advocacy for people living with disabilities!

It is an incredible milestone and I have been lucky to learn more about our history and meet some of our supporters and clients over the past few months. Through this celebration I have had the pleasure of getting to know Susan K., an Easterseals Legacy Society Member and former client who received Physical Therapy services in the 1960’s. In speaking with Susan to learn about her life and her experiences it struck me how far we have come as a society and, yet, how far we still have to go. This is why the next 100 years of Easterseals are so important.

Susan was diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy early in life. Her physical challenges have never defined her; fortunately, with the advocacy of loved ones early in life she never believed she couldn’t achieve whatever she set her mind to. In Susan’s words:

“My story as an “Easterseals child” began sixty some years ago in, what was then, the small, sleepy – some might say idyllic – town of Doylestown, Pennsylvania, where I was born and raised.

Doylestown, in the 1950’s and 60’s, was a town small enough that most families knew each other somehow or other…from school, church, civic activities or shopping at the A&P grocery store in the middle of town. I attended the public “borough schools” from kindergarten through graduation from high school. However, there was a time that my going to public school was in doubt. There were a few who felt a physically handicapped child should not be integrated in school with other more “normal” children. But, thanks to the perseverance of my parents and a few enlightened individuals, it was felt there was no reason I could not be mainstreamed into the school system. And, only minor physical accommodations were ever made. Accommodations that would be almost laughable today, they were so simple. My first four years of school were spent in a very old, gothic structure with four floors and restrooms in the basement. As an example, in first and second grades, when we had one of our numerous fire drills, a male teacher, on his way down the stairs from the upper floors to the outside, would sweep me up in his arms and carry me down the long outside flight of stairs to the playground where everyone gathered. However, on a daily basis, I navigated all those steps totally on my own.

Friendships made, early on, were friendships that live on even today. I was different but accepted. Sure, occasionally different is picked on, picked last; but because I met my school mates at a time when children have few preconceived notions, for the most part, I had a fairly normal school experience. I’ve always felt my public-school experience, and the general acceptance I always felt – from classmates to teachers – is what helped to form my feelings of self-worth.

Of course, during those early growing up years, I was a regular client of Easterseals “treatment centers”. I had physical therapy, fortunately not needing occupational or speech therapies. Occasionally, at the treatment center, I would meet with the great Dr. Burton Chance, an early pioneer in the field of treating handicapped children. My years of physical therapy, years of wearing leg braces, were free, courtesy of the “Easterseal Society”. Generous donations then, as now, really do change the course of life for Easterseals children whose families might not, otherwise, be able to afford the cost.

After high school graduation, I went on to college. Then, two months after college graduation, I began my first full time job that would end up being a 36-year career in state government. Seven years ago, I retired from that career.”

Since 1960 the world has evolved and great strides have been made to provide individuals with disabilities greater equality and access, particularly in our schools. Easterseals was at the forefront of advocacy to pass the American Disabilities Act and has always sought to provide innovative services to help people with disabilities find greater independence. Today, there would be no doubt that Susan would attend public school with her peers. Today, Easterseals breaks down barriers to inclusion and stereotypes before they are ever built; our Friendship Academy preschool program integrates children with and without disabilities to learn and grow together. This innovative approach to preschool began in 2006 and, locally, has had significant impact for participants.

But we are far from done.

When I asked Susan if she has seen a significant difference in society’s perception of individuals with disabilities she responded,

The treatment of those who are “different” – physically, mentally, racially, ethnically, gender based, etc. – hasn’t really changed all that much. There have always been – are now – some who are compassionate and enlightened. People who don’t flinch at having normal interaction with those who are perceived as being different. Who help others when they see a need.

But, we also live in a world where threats of all kinds could be just around the corner. A world where many seem to be looking out just for themselves. To them, dealing with someone who is slower, or in need of assistance, is an inconvenience they’d rather avoid on their way to protecting themselves. I’ve often wondered how people like that would handle themselves, or a loved one, becoming suddenly disabled. Would they be angry when they see a handicapped parking space being taken by someone who, literally, sprints from car to building? Would they expect assistance as their “right”?

I’ve been one of the lucky Easterseals children in that my disability, for most of my life, did not hamper or define what I wanted to do. Much of the credit goes to family, friends and teachers I had at each step along the way. But, of course, had it not been for Easterseals and the services they provide, the story might have been totally different.”

It is critical that Easterseals continue to advocate, continue to innovate, and continue to ensure that individuals like Susan have the resources and services they need to live, learn, work and play in their communities. Join Easterseals for our next 100 years where, together, we will work to build a future where everyone is 100% included and 100% empowered.

susan_blog_photo

Newspaper clipping of Susan as a child.

Skating through physical therapy

by Sarah Garman

My client Trey and I, went on a field trip Tuesday, January 16th, 2018 to the Independence Blue Cross River Rink. Trey had never been ice skating before and we spent several weeks training in order to prepare for the day. During his therapy sessions, we focused on Trey challenging his strength, balance, and coordination during a variety of therapeutic exercises. I also created activities that simulated ice skating to increase Trey’s self-confidence prior to being out on the ice. With each therapy session, our excitement grew in anticipation for the field trip.

Trey and his mom, Katrina, arrived to the River Rink fully prepared for a day on the ice with hats, gloves, and scarves in addition to protective elbow and knee pads. The River Rink supplied the ice skates, popular music, and fun environment. Trey had a blast ice skating with his mom and I. Even though he was well protected- he didn’t fall once! With a little help, Trey discovered that he can ice skate! Trey looks forward to participating in more field trips and even wants to go ice skating again!

A Simple Solution

by Kathryn Wallace

I am a Physical Therapist in Bucks County and I wanted to share a quick tip when working with children in their walkers in their home environment. Some of the children with whom I work require maximal assistance when walking. Recently I was working with Paige,  a graduate of Easter Seals in her home environment.

In this session, I was cueing Paige to take steps and mom was holding toys to keep her head up. The toys motivate her to walk forward. Mom mentioned that when there isn’t a second person she is not sure how to motivate Paige to walk. Together we came up with the idea pictured below. We mounted the iPad on the IV pole and used a broom to move the pole as Paige walks forward.

Dance/Movement Therapy with the Children at Easter Seals

By, Michelle Baxley – Dance/Movement Therapy Intern at Easter Seals Early Intervention Center – SEPA

“What is dance/movement therapy? I’ve never heard of it.” Most often that is the reaction I get when people find out I am getting my masters in dance/movement therapy (DMT) and counseling. It’s an understandable question, as DMT is still a rather new field. DMT sits under the umbrella of the creative arts therapies with art therapy, music therapy, and drama therapy. Since its conception in the 1940s, DMT has grown into an internationally recognized therapy with its own national organization and is recognized as an accredited masters program in several universities around the world.

Here is some information to help you better understand DMT and its application to Easter Seals:

  1. What is dance/movement therapy?

The American Dance Therapy Association (ADTA) defines DMT as “the psychotherapeutic use of movement to promote emotional, social, cognitive and physical integration of the individual” (ADTA.org). What this really means is that dance/movement therapists use movement as a way to assess a person’s level of functioning in a variety of areas as well as using movement as an intervention tool to help an people reach their developmental goals. The end goal is ultimately to better integrate a person’s body and mind.

  1. How do you become a dance/movement therapist?

To become a dance/movement therapist you must complete a two-year master’s program in dance/movement therapy from an ADTA accredited university. Once you receive your master’s degree, you must complete a certain number of clinical working hours with supervision and then you may apply to become a Board Certified dance/movement therapist. I am currently finishing my second year of graduate school at Drexel University and have been interning at Easter Seals Early Intervention Center for the past nine months.

  1. My child has limited movement and is nonverbal. How could he/she benefit from dance/movement therapy?

If you think about it, everyone, even those with the most limited movement abilities, moves in some capacity. Movement is our first language. It is the first way infants explore the world through rolling over, reaching for various objects, and moving objects to and from their mouths and then to potentially crawling and walking. Even a head nod or the gesture of a hand is a movement. Dance/movement therapists use this movement, however small, as a means of nonverbally communicating with the child. We create a personal relationship with the child through movement and help that child find other forms of creative expression besides words.

  1. How does dance/movement therapy help my child at Easter Seals Early Intervention Center?

At Easter Seals Early Intervention Center, I use dance/movement therapy to help students create social interactions with peers; practice problem solving, turn taking, and listening; explore creativity in play; facilitate emotional expression; and promote self and emotional regulation all in a playful and creative environment. All of my goals for these children are aimed at helping them transition into kindergarten. Additionally, I work with the other occupational therapists, physical therapists, speech and language therapists, and music therapists to provide a more holistic treatment approach.

  1. Where can I learn more about dance/movement therapy?

Websites:

  • American Dance Therapy Association –

www.adta.org

      ●      National Coalition of Creative Arts Therapies Associations, Inc –

http://www.nccata.org/

  • Drexel University Master’s in Dance/Movement Therapy and Counseling

http://drexel.edu/cnhp/academics/graduate/MA-Dance-Movement-Therapy-Counseling

Books:

  • Levy, F. J., Fried, J. P., & Leventhal, F. (Eds.) (1995). Dance and other expressive arts therapies. London: Routledge.
  • Naess Lewin, J. L. (1998). Dance therapy notebook. Washington, DC: American Dance Therapy Association.
  • Sandel, S. L., Chaiklin, S., & Lohn, A. (Eds.) (1993). Foundations of dance/movement Therapy: The life and work of Marian Chace. Washington, DC: American Dance Therapy Association.

Videos:

While DMT is still a young field, it is definitely growing and increasing its body of research every year. It’s a versatile therapy that can be adapted for any population. If you have more questions feel free to email me at mbaxley@easterseals-sepa.org.

Happy Moving,

Michelle Baxley,
Dance/Movement Therapy Intern at Easterseals Early Intervention Center – SEPA