Children often can benefit from the services of a Physical Therapist. In some cases, the child simply needs a “boost” to get started along the developmental pathway. Occasionally, children get “stuck” along the way and need the assistance of a therapist to improve their motor skills. From the first days of their life, some children need a therapist who can help enhance motor skills, prevent secondary complications and educate their families. Pediatric Physical Therapists help children reach their maximum potential for functional independence through examination, evaluation, promotion of health and wellness and support services. They support children from infancy through adolescence in tandem with their families and other medical, educational, and rehabilitation specialists.
Pediatric Occupational Therapists work with children from birth to adolescence on reaching fine motor milestones, learning to complete activities of daily living, handwriting, and integrating sensory information. Occasionally, children will have difficulty learning these skills for a variety of reasons. Occupational Therapists can evaluate barriers that prevent children from excelling. After an evaluation, the therapist can implement a program that the child, family and therapist can follow. Occupational therapists use a range of techniques to move a child along the developmental pathway.
Most people think speech therapy is just “talking.” Some kids do see a speech therapist to learn to say specific sounds correctly. However, Speech Therapy is more than just “talk.” Speech Therapists work with children to improve their understanding of language so they can follow directions better and understand what others are saying to them. Speech Therapy also works on improving what kids can say. For some that means working on getting them to say their first words or for others it is to help them learn to sequence the sounds and words better to improve how well others can understand them. For those kids who have the most difficulty learning to use words, Speech Therapy can focus on alternative means of communicating, such as sign language or using pictures to communicate. Speech Therapy also works to improve children’s oral-motor skills and swallow function to help them improve their eating if it has been compromised due to illness or injury.
For most children, eating is a natural skill they begin using effortlessly after birth and continue developing during their first year of life. But, for kids with medical complications or other developmental delays, learning to eat can be a difficult challenge. Mercy Medical Center’s Speech Therapists and Occupational Therapists are available to work with you and your child to improve your child’s overall eating experience. An Occupational Therapist may engage your child in sensory play with various food textures to decrease your child’s fear and anxiety around new foods or work to improve your child’s ability to feed themselves. A Speech Therapist may help your child learn the oral motor skills necessary to chew and swallow foods of different textures. Parents are also an important part of the feeding team. You will learn strategies and techniques to practice at home to bring the skills your child learns in therapy into your family meals at home.
Special Needs Car Seat Program:
Families with children with special health care needs have an especially difficult task of making sure their child is properly restrained in the family’s motor vehicle. Mercy Medical Center’s Special Needs Car Seat Program can help you make decisions about the safest way for your child with special health care needs to travel. This program offers an evaluation of your child’s positioning needs performed by a Physical Therapist. This is followed by a trial of your child in the recommended safety seat and an assessment of the compatibility of the safety seat(s) in your vehicle. Instruction on the proper use and installation of the safety seat as well as assistance with obtaining necessary medical documentation for insurance is also provided.
Your child’s hearing was probably evaluated when they were born as most hospitals now provide a newborn hearing screening following birth. However, if your baby was born at home or did not have a hearing screening at birth, Mercy Medical Center’s Audiologist can provide a hearing screening for your newborn. The Audiologist also provides follow-up testing if your baby did not pass the initial screening. As your child gets older, regular hearing screenings are important and are usually completed by your physician or school. However, if you have concerns that your child may be having difficulty hearing, an evaluation by an Audiologist may be beneficial. Signs that your child may be having a problem hearing include: difficulty with development of speech, frequently inattentive, increases the volume on the radio or TV, failure to respond to conversation-level speech or answering inappropriately to speech, history of frequent ear infections, family history of hearing loss in childhood, or serious illness such as meningitis.
If you believe your child is experiencing delays or barriers along the developmental pathway, talk to your healthcare provider about referring your child for an evaluation. Mercy Medical Center’s team of professionals is committed to the growth and development of the children of Siouxland. If you have further questions about Pediatric Therapy Services or about the referral process, please contact us at 712 279-2576.
Sandra Burns, PT, DPT NDT/C
Sandra Burns earned her master’s degree and her doctorate degree in Physical Therapy from Des Moines University. She has pursued advanced training in Neuro-Developmental Training (NDT) where she completed 320 hours of specialized training to obtain specialized certification for the treatment of neurological disorders in children. She also has training in Proprioceptive Neuromuscular facilitation and is certified in Yoga Kids. Her special areas of interest are in the treatment of neuromuscular disorders and incorporating yoga into her therapy. Sandra has extensive experience in working with children of all ages from birth through adolescence.
Pennie Tesch, MA, CCC-SLP
Pennie earned her master’s degree in Communication Disorders from the University of South Dakota. She has pursued further education in the areas of oral motor, childhood apraxia of speech, assistive technology, Autism and ADHD including education related to the Beckman Oral Motor Assessment and Intervention, the Picture Exchange Communication System, and the Kaufman Speech to Language Protocol. Pennie has extensive experience in working with children with feeding and swallowing disorders. She is also a certified provider of VitalStim for the treatment of dysphagia.
Kristin Hightree, OTR/L
Kristin earned her bachelor’s degree in Occupational Therapy from Creighton University. Since then she has pursued additional education to expand her knowledge of the treatment of Sensory Integration disorders. She is trained in the Wilbarger Therapressure protocol for sensory defensive children. She is also certified in the DIR/Floortime approach used to help children with Autism improve their social interactions and engagement. She incorporates the SOS approach when working with children with feeding difficulties.
Sensory Integration Disorder
Speech and Language Delays
Childhood Apraxia of Speech
Walking or Gait Abnormalities
Visual Motor Problems
Feeding or Swallowing Problems
Torticollis or Plagiocephaly