Blog

Great Strides Super Hero: Kile Keene

Five Year ABA Student Plays Cello in Jr Symphony!
     By Christina Swanson

When the Jacksonville Symphony Youth Orchestra (JSYO) plays its first concert of the season in November, one of Great Strides youngsters will be performing at their first concert, too, as part of the Foundations Strings ensemble. At only eight years old, Kile Keene is another Great Stride super hero demonstrating how consistent hard work by “Team Kile” — his therapists and music teacher — can make all the difference in achieving developmental milestones.

Mary Westwood, Kile’s behavior therapist, has been working with Kile, both at his school and at the GS clinic, since he was three years old. This special relationship began when Kile first attended a special needs pre-kindergarten class at a private school. Westwood worked with Kile, a caring youngster with autism, helping him learn basic behavioral skills so he could eventually start attending his neighborhood’s public school, Hickory Creek Elementary, by the time he entered the first grade.

“Mary has been instrumental in integrating Kile into a classroom setting and his being able to go to public school,” said Windy Keene, Kile’s mom. “She instructs Kile on many skills, including social and academic, both with his teacher in the classroom and at the GS clinic, provides input to Kile’s IEP goals, and attends IEP meetings with me, all helping Kile to be successful.”

As Kile advances in such behaviors as interacting with his peers, Westwood has less classroom involvement in now his third grade year. She checks on him during recess, and works at the clinic with him for four hours per week, some of that one-on-one promoting motor planning skills to help the body and brain to work together in breaking down the steps involved in accomplishing specific tasks. Along with Westwood, Team Kile also includes Great Strides occupational, speech and physical therapists who help build upon his skills and accomplishments.

When Kile was three years old, his mom discovered he has a perfect pitch so they started him on piano lessons at the Orchard Kingdom. This was no easy task due to children on the autism spectrum having motor difficulties (where, in this case, the brain doesn’t cooperate in telling his fingers to press the right keys) involving more hands-on by both Westwood and mom.

Two years ago, Kile chose to add learning how to play the cello, diligently taking both piano and cello lessons several times a week. This has meant additional challenges in motor skills with Westwood working on such activities as how to pack and unpack his cello bag. When Kile’s cello teacher suggested him trying out for the JSYO this summer, he also worked with Kile on musical expectation for tryouts so he’d be ready.

String instruments are said to be the most difficult of musical instruments to learn and as mom noted, “It takes a lot for his brain to compute for even something as seemingly simple as holding the instrument.” If you google “learning to play the cello” you’ll learn that many accomplished musicians state that the cello is as “very hard to play as it is very easy to be out of tune” because the Cello has a very long fingerboard. This means it takes lots of practice to learn to find the right spot while requiring the player to focus both arms on the correct bowing and fingering, and requires learning to read music for the only instrument that uses three clefs — bass, treble, and tenor.

So, choosing to play the cello and winning a spot on the JSYO are no small feats! Kile and the JSYO’s first season performance is the Fall Concert on November 19 at the Jacoby Symphony Hall of the Florida Times Union Center for the Performing Arts in downtown Jacksonville.

Another huge accomplishment for Kile this summer was learning how to independently ride his bike. Kile’s GS physical therapist since he was four, John Kirkland, had been working with Kile for many months on balancing on his bike without training wheels and felt an added “push” might be just the boost Kile needed to make it happen. So, Kirkland suggested Kile attend “iCan Bike,” a bike camp for special needs children affiliated with the international nonprofit “iCan Shine.” This year, the five-day camp was offered in Florida in Orlando the first week of August, and was the perfect boost Kile needed to start riding independently and work on his social skills with new friends.

“Through the therapies at Great Strides, Kile is opening up and more willing to interact with his peers, in large part to his GS social skills group where they learn to listen and respond appropriately to peer interaction,” explained Keene.

“This has been a wonderful year of learning for Kile as he has been able to make friends and invite classmates over to ride bikes and swim together,” said Keene. “I am thankful to be around such great people and a talented team of therapists who are constantly on board promoting “Team Kile” — he’s a great kid who works very hard.”

 

— Here’s More About iCan Bike Camp

iCan Bike camp is a part of the international nonprofit iCan Shine that collaborates with area organizations to provide 100, five-day iCan Bike camps throughout the US and Canada each year. Their goal is to help children with disabilities (specifically geared to Down syndrome and autism) experience the joy of independently riding a conventional two-wheel bike.

For more information about the next bike camp in Florida, contact Camille Gardner at camille.gardiner@dsfflorida.org or call 407-760-9395.

Another Great Strides Advantage

Dr. Rebecca Kilgore, PT, DPT, BCaBA – both a licensed physical therapist and board
certified assistance behavior analyst – and why that’s EXCEPTIONAL  
By Christina Swanson

As a child grows and learns reaching typical milestones, it’s easy to take everyday things for granted, like putting on closed-toed shoes or interacting with peers playing a simple game. Unless you’re the parent of a child on the autism spectrum or other special need. Then something as simple as walking on the grass can be difficult for a child with sensory aversion as the grass can feel to them like spiders crawling on their ankles.

Imagine the heart-felt joy for family members to watch their child with disabilities play an organized sport, albeit on a reduced scale, knowing it meant overcoming so many challenges and learning enough social, verbal, physical and gross motor skills to be part of a team. At Great Strides Rehabilitation Clinic and School in Mandarin, such an accomplishment came true for many of their 13 to 17 year-old-students in large part to the unique talents and skill sets of Dr. Rebecca Kilgore, PT, DPT, BCaBA, who is both a licensed physical therapist and board certified assistance behavior analyst.

So how is this unique and why is having both specialties an advantage to such children and their parents? Whether physical, speech, or occupational, a therapist’s studies and internships are on a set course that differs from a certified behaviorist’s path. Yet many children with special needs, require help in all of these disciplines to reach developmental targets. Let’s say a patient has behavior issues and throws a ball at the physical therapist rather than doing a particular exercise with it. Because the physical therapist deals with body improvements, they would not be trained in how to redirect this aggression. With both disciplines needed for the child to improve, it’s more efficient and targeted to have one person be able to immediately teach what’s needed. Also, the act of physical therapy itself is not usually fun since stretching areas can hurt, so a physical therapist who is also behavioral certified can help the child stay motivated to finish the session.

Kilgore has learned through her own experience that combining athletics with behavior therapy is a winning combination toward helping kids with special needs advance. She also focuses on teaching parents how to better set up their environments to help develop their children as they grow.  “This additional degree has allowed me to work with parents on behaviors they would like to decrease to feel comfortable taking their kids into the community, while improving understanding of how exercise tolerance or even severe physical disabilities can be overcome or functionally assisted so their child can participate in everyday activities,” explained Kilgore.

When Kilgore, along with other Great Stride specialists, set up and prepared students for an “in-house” soccer team two years ago, it was truly a huge triumph in every discipline from social skills (sharing the ball, winning/loosing, congratulating and cheering on peers), to teaching step-by-step motor imitation and physical skills down to the very act of how to kick the ball. They worked on attention span and remaining engaged as well as their physical capacity for the game.

“I believe if a child can’t physically keep up with their friends or kids their age, then they are left behind which makes developing social skills nearly impossible,” said Kilgore. “Typically, when kids are difficult to manage, parents keep them home and limit their exposure to other kids, which, of course, impacts both physical and social capacities. Athletics is a great way to tackle and overcome all of this.”

The kids wore neon green jerseys that they designed themselves with their nicknames printed on the back. Many had therapy to get them to wear the jersey, sneakers and kick the ball on grass. So when the parents got to see their child play as a team for the first time it was a monumental achievement that gave them hope in their child’s potential.

“I am most passionate about how physical capabilities affects behavior and how behavior effects physical capabilities,” said Kilgore. When she joined Great Strides in 2011 as a behavioral instructor with a bachelor’s in psychology, she soon became a Board Certified assistance Behavior Analyst (BCaBA) lead running classrooms and teaching other assistants while going to college full time toward earning her behavior analyst certification. During her doctorial studies, which she completed in May 2017 from Nova Southeastern University in Tampa, Fla., Kilgore evaluated and treated patients with various orthopedic and developmental/neurological conditions as well as postsurgical and medically fragile oncology patients, incorporating a range of therapy mediums including aquatic therapy and youth sports.

With Great Strides known for its innovative approaches, from karate classes to vocational opportunities with local businesses, Kilgore is excited about presently creating a Physical Ed program for the Great Strides’ school that combines physical and behavioral therapy as basic PE goals for the school’s kids ages five through 21. “All kids with disabilities, especially those with autism, need to experience social contact where they learn how to relate to their peers and vice-versa,” said Kilgore. “Through PE, these kids will get stronger, coordinated and learn the steps they are missing to be able to interact with other kids on the playground.”

If Kilgore sounds passionate about helping children with disabilities learn the skills needed to have a productive life and make their parents happy as they improve, well, yes, it’s her life purpose. And she doesn’t back down. That’s because she knows what it’s like to overcome a handicap herself. And that the seemingly impossible can happen when you have someone helping who refuses to give up—which for Kilgore was her dad who instilled in her that the things in life that are worth doing aren’t usually easy.

As a youngster, her arm was so badly broken from a horse-riding accident that doctors wanted to amputate.   Her dad refused and after the casts were removed and much PT, doctors said she’d never extend her elbow. But her dad had other plans, enrolled her in softball and worked on her swing and throw for a year with her ultimately becoming a good softball player.

 “This experience taught me that just because something bad happens it doesn’t have to define you; and just because someone says you have to do something one way to get better, if it’s not working, try something else,” explained Kilgore. “My kids at Great Strides inspire me everyday to be creative. You can’t work from a preplanned list of exercises with these kiddos because they need more than that. And their families also need more than that.”

“So many kids out there that seem to be discouraged because people only see the different outward behaviors rather than look for the good in these children,” said Kilgore. “I want to work with getting them past that, teach them the skills to have a better life and participate in society and be happy.” If you’d like to have Dr. Kilgore work with your child, contact Great Strides at (904) 886-3228 or info@greatstridesrehab.com.

 

                                               

 

 

 

Simply the BEST

Dr. Jon Edenfield Earns University of St. Augustine’s Health Sciences 20th Anniversary Occupational Therapy Professional Program Award

By Christina Swanson

Out of 1,400 occupational therapy graduates from the University of St. Augustine for Health Science’s (USAHS) Occupational Therapy (OT) Program — 20 years’ worth — one graduate stood out from all the rest. DR. JON EDENFIELD OTD, OTR/L, founder and director of Great Strides Rehabilitation Center in Mandarin, was presented with the 20th Anniversary Occupational Therapy Professional Award from the university’s Board of Directors for his outstanding commitment to the occupational therapy profession in leadership, advocacy, service, scholarship, mentorship and innovation.

Edenfield and his family were flown out to Carlsbad, CA, to receive this one-time award in celebration of the 20th anniversary of occupational therapy at the university, and the 100th anniversary of occupational therapy as a profession.

After earning his undergraduate degree in OT at the University of Florida, Edenfield attended and completed his masters at USAHS when the OT program was in its infancy, graduating in 2000 where he was presented with the outstanding OT student award. After working with special needs children he saw that most require multiple types of therapies with specialists typically at different locations. That’s when Edenfield created Great Strides — a comprehensive rehabilitation center for children – providing unique interdisciplinary teams of specialists at one rehab and special education facility so parents can meet their child’s varied needs in one location. He also earned his doctorate from USAHS, researching his capstone project for three years, titled “Pilot Study: The physiological effects of animal assisted therapy on children with autism spectrum disorder.”

This pilot study was based on working with Nantuckett, after he completed the year-long process of acquiring and learning how to work with a service dog. “We came to the conclusion that having children interact with the dog before their sessions, whether therapy or educational, meant they would be more alert and receptive to learning and communicate and behave better,” said Edenfield.

In only 13 years, Great Strides has grown from a one-room space to a 19,000 square foot new building employing 85 specialists and assistants, helping children with disabilities from birth to 21-years-old. Great Strides also has after-school programs with speech, behavior and music therapies, with specialists also working with medically fragile daycares and schools.

“My biggest triumph is to take a family that has just found out that their child has been diagnosed with a disability, and give them a road map of help so they know that it is going to be OK,” said Edenfield. “Their life may be different than their original paradigm but they and their child are still going to have a good life.”

As Edenfield approached the podium, the USAHS presenter praised him for “upholding the legacy of the university with his innovative and broad range of programs helping special needs children.” The award ceremony also honored exceptional USAHS faculty.

 

Helping Children be Better People

Helping Children be Better People is Promoted by Relationship Between Pak’s Karate Academy of Mandarin and Great Strides Rehabilitation

By Christina Swanson

Chelsea loves practicing the high block, Cole likes saying “Kiai” (kee-yah) and Will takes a shine to kicking. Sounds like a typical elementary-school-aged kids’ response to beginning karate classes except these are children with special needs and the classes are just one way their rehabilitative school goes beyond the norm in expanding their daily learning process.

Great Strides Rehabilitation has been providing speech, physical and occupational therapy services for Northeast Florida for more than a decade with their main clinic, school and outpatient therapy support. Although they are located in Mandarin as part of the Jacksonville Pediatric Enrichment Center, their therapists also help children with disabilities at schools and medically fragile day care centers. Also located within this large Mandarin business complex on San Jose Boulevard is Pak’s Karate Academy of Mandarin, a mainstay in this area for 31 years.

Dr. Jon Edenfield, OTD, OTR/L, founder and executive director of Great Strides, wants his students to engage in a variety of leisure activities to help with their motor and social skills in a fun way. “Many special needs children have a hard time participating in sports teams or other typical activities such as riding a bike, and when they do, it can be a negative experience causing them to become self-conscious of their own behaviors which can lead to poor self-esteem,” said Edenfield.

When the students walk to the play ground each school day, they actually pass the Pak’s Academy building. One day about six months ago, when one of Pak’s owners, Master Christopher Tersak, saw the children, he approached the therapists with the group and struck up the idea of having the kids participate in some basic karate classes at no charge.

Edenfield already knew the benefits of karate for special needs children, especially those in the autism spectrum, in developing better balance, motor coordination, focus on a task, and improved eye contact and social skills. Tersak saw this as an opportunity to give back to the community and fulfill their core mission to extend the benefits of karate to all people, especially those with challenges and behavior issues.

“It’s all about form, discipline and focus rather than the physically aspect of fighting,” said Tersak. “Behavior is a huge part of advancing in karate…how they stand in line, address their instructors and interact with other students.”

“It’s inspiring to see how the instruction builds confidence to speak and perform in front of people which is one of life’s greatest fears even in adults,” explained Tersak. You see when the little ones first come here they are still holding onto mom’s leg; after three months they are standing in front of 300 people performing for their first belt.”

Working with the Great Strides’ students also challenges and grows Pak’s teachers to become more patient and understanding in their instruction methods. They are starting to receive feedback from the kids’ therapists and parents that the classes are showing a positive impact on the students’ everyday lives. “That is our payment because that is why we do it,” said Tersak.

Pak’s Academy is known for being family oriented where about 20 percent of the parents join their kids after they witness how beneficial learning the discipline of karate can be. “The greatest thing is to watch a father practicing moves with his child,” said Tersak. “We are in the business of developing community leaders in school and life, not just black belts. “ (The Pak’s Karate Academy of Mandarin — named after the grand master founder who has 150 schools world-wide and independently owned — was bought by two brothers who learned and have taught there for 20 years, Master Christopher and Master Nicholas Tersak, along with wife Angela Tersak.)

Recently, Edenfield attended his students’ first ceremony at Pak’s Academy, watching six to eight year olds pay strict attention to instructions and beam with pride after breaking their first boards. “It’s obvious the children are really into it and their behavior and focus improvements are extending into other crucial communication areas as shared by their parents,” said Edenfield.

For more information about Pak’s of Mandarin call 262-8200 or go to paksmandarin.com; to reach Great Strides Rehab call 886-3228 or visit greatstridesrehab.com.

Prescribed Pediatric Extended Care

Jumpstart Pediatrics

By Christina Swanson

I spoke with Joni Hughes who is recent owner of a new PPEC in town “Jumpstart Pediatrics”. PPEC stands for Prescribed Pediatric Extended Care and is a daycare option for medically fragile children who would not be appropriate for typical daycare due to medical issues. In the past, parents working or in school often kept medically fragile children home with round the clock nursing care. Therapy was provided in outpatient locations or through Early Steps around the parent’s schedule.   Now more parents are learning about PPECs as an option for their child, and there are many more PPEC choices in Jacksonville. PPECs are staffed by skilled nurses who medically care for the children. Therapy is provided “in house” and includes PT, OT and ST as well as vision and hospital homebound schooling options. This cuts down on multiple additional appointments for the parents during the week and often fits their school/ work schedule better. Transportation is provided if needed, with buses or vans picking up the children in the morning and transporting them home. Medical personnel accompany the children on the bus rides to ensure their safety. Great Strides began staffing therapists at PPECs about 10 years ago, and has steadily grown with these companies. Joni responded to several questions about her experiences in this medical business.

What is your background medically?

“30 years of nursing, 20 of that in pediatrics, and most in critical care or home health. I have been involved in PPECs for 15 years.”

 

How did you decide to open a PPEC?

“I decided to open one because I wanted to produce a program that had more supportive services for the parents and more developmental and academic services for children. “I wanted a program that would offer children a variety of developmental options. People tend to forget that children who are medically complex can progress and should be offered the maximum amount of developmental opportunities available.”  

 

How long has Jumpstart been open and how many children can it serve?

 “It’s been open since December of 2016 and we are can service 50 children here in the center. We are growing very quickly and we happy with how the community has received the center and services we provide.”

 

What services does GSR provide for your PPEC?

Physical, occupational and speech therapy. When available, Jon has also sent a music therapist regularly which the children love and respond to significantly.”

 

How long have you been contracting with Jon Edenfield and GSR?

“I’ve worked with Jon for over 10 years providing therapeutic services to children in PPECs.”

 

What were you specifically wanting to do with Jumpstart to “set it apart?”

“I wanted it to be a bright, airy and kid friendly environment that would stimulate the children’s growth and development as well as provide for their medical needs. I wanted it to be a place where parents felt comfortable leaving their children for the day.”

 

 What is the mission of your program?

“At JumpStart Pediatrics, we strive to provide compassionate, quality care in a professional, caring and friendly environment. Our goal is to partner with your family to ensure the highest level of physical, developmental and social growth your child can possible attain. We are committed to help make a difference in your child’s overall health and well-being as we also strive to make a difference in the community we serve.”

 

Tell me about your family, and what you like to do in your spare time.

“I’ve been married for 30 years, have 4 children and 4 beautiful grandchildren. Family is very important to me.

I like spending time with my husband, children and grandchildren, reading, volunteering in the community, and going to the beach.”

 

Vocational Training

New Company Partnerships Assist in Student Skills

By Christina Swanson

A vocational training program for older Great Stride students is currently being developed with several fine students currently taking part. Actually started last summer during summer camp with our older clients, Great Strides was looking to review clients’ skills, abilities, and interests during performing three types of jobs and their requirements which included:

  •    Car washing,
  •    Baking
  •   Maintenance at Westminster.

The summer program helped guide the outline for our current vocational program as we flesh-out the details. Coordinated by Lauren Cricchio B.S., RBT, GS Associate Lead Therapist, she explains the purpose of the program,

“The program is not just to teach a certain job skill until proficiency has been met but also focuses on a comprehensive package for each individual on what skills are needed to be successful in a community job – self help, social skills, self advocacy, safety and time management.” After those stages have been taught and met the student will work on specific job areas that interest each individual. A win-win for student and partnering companies.

Great Strides appreciates Westminster Woods on Julington Creek, and Mama Fu’s on San Jose having graciously allowed Great Strides to work with them on potential future employment and great on-the-job training for our students.

We are always looking for new opportunities to provide our clients with many different employment choices throughout the community. If a company is interested in partnering with us, they should call the main office at 886-3228.

 

Great Strides Summer Camp: June 12 – August 4

By Christina Swanson

This year’s summer camp is an eight week program that runs from 9 am – 2 pm weekdays. Children can attend full time or part time (three days). Please note camp will be closed on July 4 due to the holiday.

This program provides 1:1 Applied Behavior Analysis therapy. Therapeutic interventions are incorporated into fun summer activities including: science, cooking, reading, art, music, gardening, and yoga. The older children will be participating in their own program for functional living skills. For additional information, contact Lauren Albert, GS Ed Coord atLaurenA@greatstridesrehab.com

Summer Activities for Kids with Autism or Sensory Processing Disorders (from Easterseals)

Summer is a chance to play, rest and enjoy a change of pace. The shift in environment and pace can be more challenging for children with autism or other sensory processing disorders. A director of a resource center for autism shares some creative ideas for summer fun for kids on the spectrum or kids who are simply sensory sensitive.

Summer fun starts with embracing exploration with new sensory activities, which may help improve sensory processing while reducing stress. Get outdoors and pay close attention for signs of frustration or overstimulation so you’ll know when to take a break.

Try seasonal foods through cooking activities.

A farmer’s market may overwhelm some kids, but you can always bring summer fruits and vegetables home to try. Prepare them together in your kitchen or try campfire-style, explaining what to do step by step.
Sandboxes make for a wonderful sensory play. If you don’t have one, create your own sensory table or bucket with any large container (i.e. a small plastic pool, a large plastic storage bin) and fill it with sand or water. You can also include some natural elements to discover within it, like flower petals or small toys.

Consider sensory needs with swimwear and sunscreens. But soft fabrics and fragrance-free lotions or sprays. Apply before you leave the house for the day or start a new activity. If your child is sensitive to some of these safety measures, then try alternatives like sun hats, sunglasses or soft, sun-blocking shirts.

Schedule a time to safely swim together in a pool. Borrowing some time at a friend’s pool or scheduling private swimming time at a local pool (much like scheduling a private swim lesson) may help your child ease in and enjoy. Swimming helps with body awareness (if you want to get technical, we call this proprioception) and tactile input.

Build an obstacle course together in your yard or at a familiar playground.

Ride bikes or scooters.

Go to the play-ground and have fun.

 

CSI PPEC Success Story—Suzie Wright

Suzie Wright is a 3 ½ year-old miracle child whose rate of advancement has been phenomenal. She was a typically developing child until a year ago (5/19/15) when she suffered a traumatic brain injury from a commercial garage door falling on her. CPR was administered and she was rushed to the hospital.

Suzie had a g-tube placed for nutritional needs and a tracheotomy for respiratory support. She also underwent a craniofacial repair in June of 2015. Suzie remained in a vegetative state with little response to outside stimulation for approximately two months.

It was pretty much a miracle that she woke from that vegetative state–doctors were not confident that she would regain consciousness. But one day, Suzie opened her eyes and began interacting with family and medical staff. She waved “hi” on command and was attempting to speak (which she was initially unable to do because of the tracheotomy). As she continued to progress and show signs that she was medically stable, she was released from the hospital in July 2015. At that time, she began attending CSI Special Care (Arlington location) and was evaluated by the Great Strides therapeutic team, in the areas of Physical, Occupational, and Speech therapy.

Upon starting therapy, she was unable to walk and had very little ways of communicating. She was also receiving all her nutrition via her g-tube and was not able to eat by mouth. Her attention span had decreased and she was impulsive with negative behaviors due to the frontal lobe injury.

Great Strides Therapy Successes:

Suzie has now been receiving physical, speech and occupational therapies for about nine months and has come such a long way— she is:

  • walking independently,
  • breathing independently, tracheostomy removed)
  • eating by mouth (passed a swallow study she still has
    the g-tube as a precautionary measure),
  • speaking in sentences and able to carry-on
    conversations with others,
  • potty training (she was previously potty trained before
    her accident),
  • greatly improved attention span so more cooperative in
    therapy,
  • demonstrating less negative behaviors (kicking, hitting)

The Great Strides staff working with Suzie include: Katie Hartman, MOT, OTR/L; Ashley Ziccarelli, M.Ed, SLP-CCC and Adrienne Vickers, DPT.

Suzie’s mom, Miranda, is so grateful to the Great Strides therapy team saying, “All the varied therapies provided to Suzie at CSI PPEC has made her recovery possible.”

She continues: “We are both looking forward to her going to Great Strides Pre-K school in the Fall. I’ve watched Suzie go from a little girl who was in a coma and upon awakening couldn’t walk or talk because of the accident, to relearning these basic skills at an accelerated rate due to exceptional care. This has been hard on everyone with Suzie having four siblings ranging from age nine to two and her being the one next to the baby. My husband and I were told that we should get therapy because of all the heartache with the accident but our therapy has been seeing her excel and proving the original doctors negative prognosis wrong. We are also so excited as Suzie was just granted her wish for the family to go to Disney World which was given by the Make a Wish Foundation.”

Current Therapy Focus:

She is currently working on ascending/descending stairs, jumping, general strengthening, labeling colors, drawing shapes, completing puzzles, learning pronouns, identifying verbs from pictures, and other skills. Suzie is definitely a miracle child and prayers were answered for her family.

The Future is All Smiles:

Based on the progress she has made thus far in such a small amount of time, prognosis is good and her future looks bright. As always, there can be plateaus with progress but she has not had setbacks in the last year so we only see Suzie making gains and continuing to progress to maximize independence.

Her therapeutic team is proud of Suzie’s advancement and look forward to providing her the skills towards continued success.

A Little Bigger—A Lot Better!

Great Strides will be acquiring some additional space located next door to the main office which means more space for more therapeutic learning and play areas for your child.

Fletchers PPEC Success Story—Prymus Buckholtz

Prymus ArticlePrymus is an adorable and friendly four year old boy who began coming to the Fletchers PPEC as a baby. He was diagnosed with spastic quadriplegia meaning that he has weakness and difficulty moving his arms and legs like he wants. In addition, the muscles of his face and mouth which would coordinate speech and oral feeding are also impacted. Prymus is a bright young boy who loves people and loves learning. He is devoted to his parents and has wonderful support from them. He has a high level of cognitive and receptive language skills but has difficulty expressing what he knows verbally or through gestures, signs or pointing.

In the four years that Prymus has been coming to Fletchers, no one is more proud and happy with his progress than his mom. “When Prymus was born and we learned about his condition, we were told by his doctor what he couldn’t do and his limitations,” said Mrs. Buckholtz. “But the therapy team has always looked to the possibilities and the four years they have worked with him at Fletchers, he had made a 360 degree turn around.”

Prymus’ GS Therapy team include: John Kirkland, DPT; Jess Dailey, DPT; Julissa Taveras, OTR/L; Robyn Hershberger, MS-CCC-SLP; and Susannah Doherty, MS-CCC-SLP.

Occupational Therapy Focus:

Prymus is learning daily living activities such as how to take off his socks, grasp a cup to drink independently, or grasp and release objects. He is also learning how to use one part of his body (one arm or hand) while keeping the rest of his body still. Educational activities and pre-writing skills are also addressed to prepare him for school.

Speech Therapy Focus:

Prymus has difficulty completing the very rapid, alternating fine motor movements of the tongue for speech production. He must work hard to produce even voicing to command. His voice is often much easier for him to produce spontaneously, such as shouting or laughing, but he still needed a method to help him communicate while he works on improving coordination and strength in his oral muscles for speech.

Speech therapy also continues to focus on increasing Prymus’s vocabulary and understanding of language, as well as improving his ability to chew and swallow solids, master cup drinking and swallow safely to avoid aspiration.

Additionally, although he can move his arms, he has difficulty with performing tasks such as pointing with a finger, or targeting a small picture target with his hands to select it as a means of communicating. Therefore, usage of pictures or IPAD apps were not able to match the cognitive ability of his language skills.

After consulting with an assistive technology specialist, his speech therapists decided to try an eye gaze communication system that operates by Prymus “choosing” words with his eyes which then “speak” loud for him. He has just received this device for a trial period during which he will learn how to use it and his family will decide if it is right for him.

In addition to the eye gaze communication system, to give Prymus the very best devices to aid him in his growth in the physical therapy area, Great Strides has helped him obtain a specialized walker called the Theraputic Ambulatory Orthotic System or TAOS Walker along with other medical equipment such as braces for his feet/ legs, a wheelchair and a bath chair.

Physical Therapy Focus

This is the first time Great Strides has ordered such specialized equipment like the TAOS for a child. We are excited to be able to provide the TAOS as there are children who have different needs and every walker or device is not always appropriate for every child, parent and physical therapist.

The TAOS has two basic parts, a bracing system and the 4-wheeled base. The bracing system provides side to side and front to back support to the child’s trunk and pelvis.

Along with the TAOS, physical therapists are working diligently on helping Prymus improve a method for locomotion independently in other ways. They also help him with increasing control of his head and neck muscles, and torso so that he can better sit upright without support.

Great Strides is proud to be a part of Prymus’ learning, growth and continuing advancement.

Making Great Strides for Your Child’s Success

Recognizing each family and patient are unique, it is Great Strides’ mission to enhance quality of life through exceptional therapy services in varying areas and locations geared specifically to your child’s needs. Our dedicated interdisciplinary team of more than 65 compassionate and tenured therapists work together to provide comprehensive and coordinated care for children with special needs at Great Strides’ premier pediatric rehabilitation center and the McKay scholarship-approved private school.

In addition to our main clinic and school, located at the Jacksonville Pediatric Enrichment Center in Mandarin, Great Strides provides quality services in numerous locations around Northeast Florida, including public and private schools and at medically fragile day care centers—known as Physician Prescribed Extended Care or PPECs.

PPECs are medical day care centers dedicated to the excellent care of medically fragile infants and children. PPECs are specifically designed to optimize the development of each child’s independence, while helping them reach their full potential. Daily care is provided by trained nurses centers involves clinical interventions, therapy services and educational activities as well as transportation if needed.

There are three PPEC locations where Great Strides provides expert therapeutic care–CSI-Arlington, CSI-Cassat, and Fletchers Tendercare. Each PPEC has a dedicated Great Strides managing therapist as well as nurses, nurses aids and physical, occupational and speech therapists that work as a team to provide the most effective course of intervention for your child. We also utilize the most   technologically advanced equipment that enrich the therapeutic environment by providing
more opportunity for learning growth learning growth and skill advancement for your child.

An example of a recently purchased advancement to aid in the progress of a child with disabilities is also a wonderful success story.