Physical therapy team introduces new initiatives for patients

   The physical therapy department at the J.D. McCarty Center is introducing new initiatives and innovative training to expand the work they do with children with disabilities.
   The efforts include new strategies for patient treatment and a new playground for kids to use in the rehab area of the center.
   “I think it’s going to do great things for the center as a whole and the families we serve,” said Beth Morton, director of physical therapy, said about the new initiatives.
   The training and programs include:

TheraSuit and Universal Exercise Unit
   The center’s physical therapists and occupational therapists recently completed training to use the TheraSuit and Universal Exercise Unit during patient therapies.
   The TheraSuit is a soft canvas suit with bungee-like cords attached that is used to rehabilitate neurological and sensory disorders. The suit assists in the treatment of patients who are diagnosed with cerebral palsy, developmental delays, traumatic brain injuries and many other neurological disorders, according to
   The suit’s design aims to strengthen and retrain a child’s muscles and neurological responses. Other benefits for patients using the suit include retraining the central nervous system, improving balance, coordination and body and spatial awareness, supporting weak muscles and promoting development of fine and gross motor skills.
   The Universal Exercise Unit features a system of pulleys, weights and bungee cord attachments used for strengthening and range of motion for patients. The unit allows a patient to sit or stand without a therapist’s assistance, while allowing freedom of movement and facilitating balance.
   Exercises can be performed in the unit that help improve functional skills such as sitting, crawling and walking. The unit also can help improve balance, coordination and sensory-motor integration for patients.
   Morton said the benefits of the equipment include the ability to better target muscle groups or functional skills, and that patients of all abilities can use the suit and exercise unit.
   Morton said the center is one of only two places she’s aware of in the metro that offer the TheraSuit and Universal Exercise Unit.
   The equipment also can be integrated into a new intensives model of physical therapy for patients that involves multiple hours per day during a set number of weeks. Some of the benefits of the model include increased repetition of movement patterns and exercises for kids to help them gain new skills. Research also has shown positive impacts on muscle functional improvements, Morton said.
   Morton said families have already started asking about intensive therapy and plans are to offer pilot programs this summer to introduce this type of therapy session.

Dynamic Movement Intervention
   Another new technique offered in the physical therapy department is Dynamic Movement Intervention.
   Three of the center’s therapists — Taylor Epling, Megan Mattox and Nicole McCarthy — are registered practitioners in Dynamic Movement Intervention, a comprehensive intervention used by physical and occupational therapists to treat children with gross motor impairments.
   Two more of the center’s physical therapists and two occupational therapists will soon train in the technique, while Epling, Mattox and McCarthy recently completed an additional level of certification in DMI.
   Epling, Mattox and McCarthy said they are excited about the progress they’re seeing while using the technique with patients. They said the technique helps with early intervention, can be used at home and can help kids achieve foundational milestones.
   DMI focuses on such aspects as gross motor skills; gradual progression of increasing a challenge to encourage the child to respond with greater independence; alignment and postural control; balance and functional movements, such as improving actions and skills that lead to attaining milestones such as rolling, sitting, standing and walking, according to the DMI website,
   Therapists who incorporate DMI into sessions choose exercises that challenge the child’s neurological system to the highest level of skill, and exercises that develop the core and foundational milestones.

Renovated playground
   Plans are taking shape to renovate and expand the existing playground behind the center’s rehab area. Features will include accessible slides, swings, ramps, balance and climbing structures, shade, a picnic area and an outdoor classroom.
   Construction is expected to begin in July with completion planned in August, Morton said.
“The playground requires renovation so that it can be accessible to children of all abilities – there will be no raised barriers, we are replacing wood chips with turf, adding wheelchair/walker/cane-accessibility to the main structure and including ample shade,” Morton said. “We are adding a pretend play area, sensory-rich play features, a communication board, slides, adaptive swings and a variety of climbing structures.”
   “We believe outdoor play is an important part of development and are excited to offer this opportunity to children of all ages and abilities,” she said.
   Morton said the playground renovation and the department’s new initiatives and training will help enhance and expand the services offered to patients at the center.
   “Our goal is to provide the highest level of care to the children and families we serve; new initiatives and training are a critical part of that, as healthcare and treatment strategies are continuously changing,” Morton said. “Training our therapists in the most current treatment methods will allow access to the best care, which may otherwise be geographically or financially restrictive for our families, many of whom have traveled out of state and spent a great deal of time and money to receive these important services.”

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Patient in the Universal Exercise Unit
Patient uses TheraSuit
Sharla Bardin