Outdoor therapy: a real-life experience for ND kids with disabilities

Good Day Dakota

Physical, occupational and speech therapy are all an integral part of the lives of many children. One program is doing these types of therapy a little bit differently this week.

Most of the time kids receive therapy inside Sanfords Children’s Therapy Castle, but this week they are getting to enjoy all their therapy sessions outside at Wachter Park.

2-year-old, Rhett Strasheim, has been receiving occupational, physical, and speech therapy to help with his down syndrome since he was born. This was the first time he got to experience his therapy outside and to say he was excited would be an understatement.

“Right when we pulled up he signed play and said Erica and that’s his physical therapist,” says Rhett’s mom, Callie Strasheim.

Like Rhett, many children who go to weekly therapy don’t always have the same opportunities as other children.

“We don’t really go to a lot of parks because it’s hard to get onto the playgrounds and stuff and that way when we come here we can play on the lower playgrounds and act like a typical kid,” says Strasheim.

Therapists from Sanford Health utilized some of the park equipment as fun therapy tools for patients all around the state. They say it’s important that parents let their kids try new things because that’s the only way they are going to learn and improve.

“Just because they have a disability doesn’t me they can’t go on the swing, that they can’t walk on the playground, or they can’t go on the slides,” says Manager of Sanford Health Child Therapy, Judy Bahe. “You might just have to modify it a little bit or help them a little bit more than you would the other kids.”

The therapists know exactly what goals to set for the kids in each of their sessions, and say the outdoors can be some of the best therapy for them.

Sanford Health Occupational Therapist, Brittany Wilhelm says, “A lot of the kids we see for their entire life so we have seen them for at least for or 5 years, so just a different change of pace–it makes it motivating for the patients and being around kids that they are usually not exposed to as much as the could be.”

This part of the program only comes around once a year and more than 100 kids came out and enjoyed it.

Rhett and his mom tell me they will definitely be back next year and are grateful for the opportunity.

“It’s just really great for your kid. It gives them a chance to get used to being outside, and sometimes a lot of kids don’t really get that chance to get to be a kid and go outside and play,”

The program wraps up today but will be back next year. The Bismarck Sanford Health branch is the only place that offers this type of therapy in the state.

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