Occupational Therapy Month

Floyd Valley Therapies is one department on campus that rarely slows down. Due to age, accidents, limitations or illness, activities once done with ease can become more difficult, and therapy can help minimize these challenges. This happens as we get older but occurs with young patients as well. 

For many of us, “therapy” is what’s prescribed when the knee we hurt back in high school acts up. Floyd Valley physical therapists can ease pain, improve mobility, recover function and prevent further injury, but the full therapy department can do even more. This dramatically expands the range of care we can provide area patients.

Floyd Valley Therapies’ physical therapists work alongside speech and occupational therapists and their teams and can coordinate your care with your entire healthcare team.

“We have one of the larger, well-rounded therapy departments in the area, and that’s before the new addition that will further expand our services,” says Dustin Wright, CEO of Floyd Valley Healthcare. “Providing comprehensive care for all our patients is our primary focus, and that plays heavily into the wide range of therapy services we provide today. Since it’s occupational therapy month, it’s great that we can talk about this.”

Occupational therapists (OTs) help patients improve, recover and develop the skills necessary for day-to-day activities and maximize their functional independence. 

Patients who have suffered an accident, stroke, brain or spinal cord injury, or have mobility limitations or chronic conditions like cerebral palsy, can see dramatic improvement in their ability to perform daily tasks with occupational therapy as part of their healthcare plan. 

“Health events, like a stroke, can dramatically change a patient’s ability to walk, talk, perform daily tasks and even live independently,” says says Alison Vlieger, an occupational therapist with Floyd Valley Therapies. “OTs, alongside physical and speech therapists, can improve functions like fine motor skills, improve quality of life and provide outcomes that allow these patients to regain much, if not all, of their mobility and previous abilities.”

Children in particular benefit from occupational therapy because they are still growing and developing.

“Lyle is a star patient, and that’s not just because of the progress he’s continually making,” says Vlieger. “He was fitted with a new chair, and within just a few minutes, was moving around the room like a pro. He’s literally running over milestones.”

Floyd Valley Therapies’ OTs evaluate and work with kids with a variety of diagnoses and limitations, including developmental delays, autism, sensory disorders, cognitive problems, learning disabilities and other medical conditions that affect their ability to learn and perform basic skills. 

“With children, we work a lot with the small-muscle movements of the hands and fingers to help with fine motor skills,” says Vlieger. “Occupational therapy can also improve hand-eye coordination, movement, strength and balance development, social interaction skills, sensory processing and aid with learning challenges.”

Some of the therapies performed with OTs – particularly with children – look like normal play; however, there’s research and evidence behind this type of play that demonstrates the potential for development and improvement of skills and abilities. 

“We utilize a variety of play including balls, puzzles, putty, tweezers and writing to address areas of strength, coordination and visual processing,” says Vlieger. “Our ball pit, swings, slide and trampoline provide ample – and engaging – ways to meet the sensory needs of our patients, especially kids.”

The OT space for pediatric and young patients includes the sensory gym and feeding clinic. Plans to expand the dedicated pediatric space will accommodate larger equipment, allowing OTs to explore the best approaches to carry out these types of sensory activities, as well as coordination and strengthening activities that can translate to a home setting.

OT demonstrates even broader benefits, frequently improving school performance, social skills and self-confidence and provides a sense of accomplishment. And while there may be fewer wheelies when Lyle completes his therapy and his sunny disposition will be missed, the goal is for him to achieve the best outcome and not need further therapy.”

“We become very close with our patients, and – thankfully – still get to see many of them at the clinic or around town after they recover or reach their goal,” says Vlieger. “Ultimately, we want our patients to achieve the mobility skills and independence they need to live their best life without us. But no matter the stage of life – and whatever they need – we’re here to help!” 

It’s important to remember that each child is different and develops at their own pace. However, if you think your child may be struggling or falling behind, contact your Floyd Valley Healthcare provider or Floyd Valley Therapies at (712) 546-3377. To learn about all the therapy services available, please visit floydvalley.org.