Monthly Archives: December 2017

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.

 

Make Your Calendars!! GSR Sensory Friendly Halloween Tuesday, October 29th 5:30-7:00pm