Pediatric Therapy Clinic helping children with challenges
By LISA R. HOWELER--Times Reporter
SAYRE -- On Desmond Street in Sayre, advanced help is available for children with sensory integration issues, autism, Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), cerebral palsy, and with various neurological impairments and developmental delays.
This advanced help comes in the form of Memorial Hospital's Pediatric Therapy Clinic.
The clinic, located in the same building as Dr. Ahmed's Pediatric Clinic, has served the area for three years. In the beginning, it was open for two days a week. In September, it began holding office hours for five days a week.
The clinic employs two physical therapists, two occupational therapists and two speech therapists. The therapists use a team approach for treating the patients who visit the clinic, which makes this clinic unique, says Sarah Keene Jacobson, the pediatric team leader and one of the occupational therapists at the clinic.
Occupational therapy and physical therapy is used to help the patients move and function easier in their environment. Sensory integration, or sensory processing therapy, is a therapy technique often used at the clinic.
Keene-Jacobson is a certified sensory integration therapist, a certification not all occupational therapists nor physical therapists receive. Sensory integration therapy is also a therapy not always offered in rural communities.
The term "sensory integration" is not one used in every day conversation. Most people understand the term "senses" and relate the word to smell, sight, taste, touch and hearing. Senses also include vestibular, proprioceptive, and tacticle senses, which are the three body-centered sensory systems. All the senses must work together to ensure the body functions the optimally. In the case of individuals with sensory integration dysfunction, some of their senses are not being processed correctly and this throws the rest of their body off.
For most children sensory integration occurs during normal childhood activities. However, there are some children who have problems with processing sensory information, such as balance or knowing where their body is in space, and this can cause delays in learning and development. Conditions, such as autism or ADHD for example, can cause problems with sensory integration.
"Sensory processing is actually what is the more correct term for sensory integration now," said Keene-Jacobson. "It is the processing of the sensory information that comes into your body through your senses, so that you're able to have a proper motor output or you can act and react appropriately to your environment."
Therapy for a person who has sensory integration dysfunction involves a variety of activities, which begin with using the way the person already processes their environment and then encouraging their system to process their environment in a way that will make it easier for them to move and function. Sensory integration therapy and Praxis tests allow for more specialized evaluation and treatment of the child, according to Keene-Jacobson.
A child must be referred to the clinic by their primary care physician. The therapists at the clinic will conduct an assessment, which includes speaking and working with the child and with the family of the child.
Once the child's main issue has been determined, the therapists will begin working on developing the various skills they are delayed in, including gross motor skills, said therapist Kristie Barnes. Physical therapy helps the child develop gross motor skills such as walking, jumping and riding a bike.
Sensory integration therapy can also be used in physical and speech therapy. Using movement may help the child with his or her language and children who never, or rarely spoke, may begin to speak, or speak more.
The therapists allow the child to choose his or her own path through various physical activities, such as obstacle courses, said Keene-Jacobson.
"We're not always saying, "OK we're going to do this.' We try to encourage the child to do it on their own. We want the child to interact with us so we are working together and they can make a motor map and plan things for themselves," she said.
Many of the children who visit the clinic are on the autistic spectrum, which means they fall under the umbrella of autism or have autistic symptoms. Other children are delayed in fine motor skills or learning development and this can be for a variety of reasons, not only because of a condition or disease.
Diagnosing sensory issues is not always easy, said Keene-Jacobson.
"Especially with sensory issues, the child looks normal and acts normal, but sometimes there are just certain things that just aren't right and they tend to get overlooked because they think they will grow out of it," she said. "Sometimes by teachers and family members they get labeled as a bad kid."
Thirteen-year-old Danny Scopelliti of Sayre has Tourette syndrome and has also been diagnosed as obsessive compulsive. Laughing, he says he also has UT -- "Uncontrollable talking." Without understanding his condition, some might have once labeled him as a "bad kid."
Tourette syndrome is a neurological disorder which is characterized by tics, involuntary, rapid and sudden movements or vocalizations which occur repeatedly.
Scopelliti's therapy lasted about three months and afterwards, he understood his conditions better and how to deal with the unique aspects of Tourette. He now volunteers at least twice a week at the clinic, helping other children understand their conditions. His mother, Nancy Scopelliti, is thankful for the clinic and for the therapists who work there.
"I think this is wonderful. They do a great job with the kids," she said.
Many in the Valley are unaware of the services offered at the clinic. Patients travel from Corning, Elmira, Owego, Ithaca and Williamsport for treatment and many times, calls also come from out of the area because of the sensory integration therapy offered here, said Keene-Jacobson.
Many parents learn about the clinic through word of mouth, or from other parents who have used the services.
Anthony and Chris Banka of Sayre use the clinic for their autistic son Matthew.
Four-year-old Jordan Wilcox visits the center to help develop skills damaged and delayed by a brain tumor, which has since shrunk. Jordan was born with the tumor. His mother, Jodi Wilcox, says in only a few months, she has seen a dramatic change in her son. Talkative and anxious to interact with everyone who enters the clinic, Jordan is now running, climbing, and following instructions better than ever before.
Sarah Aiosa of Bentley Creek brings her 9-year-old daughter Allison to the clinic each week. She has watched Allison, a cerebral palsy patient, go from a child who could not hold her own head up to a smiling, laughing young woman who has begun to walk with the help of others.
This summer, Memorial Hospital also offered Camp Sensation for children with special needs. The camp will be held again in the summer of 2006 and gave children with various challenges the opportunity to meet other children with similar challenges. The camp also offered parents a chance to learn more about assisting equipment for their children, which they usually have to travel hours to see.
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