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WORDS: Niki Richards

When your child struggles meeting developmental milestones, having a support system and a team of highly skilled therapists on your side is priceless. That’s the goal of the Manatee Memorial Hospital Outpatient Pediatric Therapy Service, to become part of the families’ support system and, in time, part of their family. 

The program has been serving the community for over 20 years and recently found a new home at Manatee Memorial Hospital (MMH).  Liz Brown, a speech pathologist since 1992 and Director of the program, has been providing expertise to families from the outset and leads the experienced team.

In fact, all 13 of the MMH staff in the department have been there for at least five years, which is one of the many reasons that every single one of their families followed them when they moved from another local hospital at the turn of the year. The therapy team prides themselves on incorporating the parents into the sessions, so they can carry on the disciplines at home. This really helps the child and parents progress together.

The program’s highly skilled therapists are there to work with children from a variety of developmental conditions and diagnoses, such as:

  • Autism
  • Birth Injuries
  • Cerebral Palsy
  • Developmental Delay
  • Down’s Syndrome
  • Feeding Difficulties
  • Hydrocephalus
  • Hypotonia/Hypertonia
  • Orthopedic Injuries/Disorders
  • Other Neurological Disorders
  • Premature Babies
  • Sensory Integration Disorders
  • Spina Bifida
  • Swallowing Disorders/Dysphagia

Patients can be seen from birth right through the teenage years. Liz explained: “The earlier we see the children, the more likely they are to respond to therapy.  Sometimes children just need extra processing time and we are here to help with that.” 

When children come in, they are evaluated by all three therapists; physical, occupational, and speech.  The therapists then collaborate and work together to make an individualized therapy program for each child. Sessions last anywhere from 30 minutes to three hours and take place anywhere from one to three times per week.  Liz added: “Parents come in with a wish list for their child, our goal is to meet them in the middle.”

The Physical Therapy team uses therapeutic play and exercise techniques to improve a child’s ability to perform functional gross motor movements. Occupational therapists practice playtime activities, repetition, and sensory integration to help children improve activity of daily living skills and fine motor abilities.  Speech Therapy works interactively with the child to improve speech, language, and feeding skills. The three disciplines all work very well together to improve quality of life and confidence in these children and the therapists couldn’t be prouder of each child’s individual progress. 

Liz said: “If you think your child might be struggling, talk to your pediatrician, request a prescription for an evaluation and call us to schedule an appointment. Always trust your mom instinct. If you feel there is a problem or concern, follow through with it.  We also work with children that are already participating in therapy through the school system or with Whole Child Manatee, we will do second opinions – we truly want what’s best for each individual child.”

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