Using Play as Therapy

Zach and EliBrothers Eli and Zach Pieske share a bond that extends beyond their home. Both boys participate in therapy through St. Alexius’ Pediatric Therapy Services to help achieve their developmental milestones. With big smiles on their faces and lots of energy, it looks like therapy is exactly what it should be when you’re a youngster - fun!

St. Alexius’ Pediatric Therapy Services uses a team approach for the treatment of neurological, orthopedic, and genetic disorders, as well as problems associated with premature birth and developmental delays. Speech, physical, and occupational therapists work closely with a child’s physician and school to assist each child to live the fullest life possible by enhancing function and promoting independence through comprehensive therapeutic programming.

Eli, three, was born with tetrasomy 9P syndrome, a rare chromosomal disorder that can cause developmental delays in speech, gross motor, and fine motor skills. Smiling from ear to ear, Eli loves working on activities to achieve these milestones!

Zach, four, was diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder and has challenges with socialization and communication skills. Smart and hardworking, Zach loves to read and is a friend to all he sees!

Twice a week, Eli and Zach attend therapy sessions to work on speech, physical, and occupational therapy skills. All the skills Zach and Eli learn are used in each therapy setting. “They think they’re just playing, but they’re really learning new skills and building on that momentum with the next therapy. We’re constantly working together to incorporate all aspects of therapy here, at school, and in their home,” says Sarah Keller, the boys’ physical therapist.

Speech therapist, Sarah Jacobs, works with Eli to help him become more vocal with his wants and needs.  “We use a method called PROMPT, a technique used to increase correct sound and word productions,” says Jacobs. Working with Zach involves improving social skills. “Zach likes to repeat what he hears so we use social stories to teach appropriate social interactions.”

Zach and Eli 2Keller assists both boys with motor skills, strength and endurance, as well as balance and coordination. “When Eli first came in, he had a really hard time lifting objects and going up and down stairs,” says Keller. “Now, his strength has improved immensely and he doesn’t tire as easily. Eventually, I would like to implement aquatic therapy into his care.” Zach also works on strengthening activities, though his goals are different. “We incorporate socialization and attention into his exercise activities.”

Occupational therapist, Jesse Wutzke, works with Eli and Zach to better improve their activities of daily living and fine motor skills. “With Zach, we are focusing on self-care activities such as getting dressed - zipping, buttoning and fastening. With Eli, we are working more on grasping items to help him eat with silverware and drink out of a cup,” states Wutzke.

Having the therapy sessions at the same time is not only beneficial to Eli and Zach, it is a big help to their parents as well. “Eli and Zach can experience therapy sessions one-on-one or together,” says Chris Pieske, their father. While their therapy sessions are individualized to suit each child’s needs, St. Alexius therapists realize the special bond these brothers have. “It’s fun to see the boys together and know that through the use of play therapy we are able to incorporate fine and gross motor skills as well as language skills to aide in their overall success,” says Jacobs. “After each therapy session, we receive a progress report of what they excelled in and what needs a little more work,” explains Chris. “The therapists then teach us what we can do to further excel what Eli and Zach have learned here and apply it at home.” It is definitely a team effort.

For more information regarding your child’s occupational, physical or speech development or to schedule an appointment with St. Alexius Pediatric Therapy Services, call 530-8200.