This summer, we had the wonderful opportunity of spending some time at the Boston Ability Center in Natick. The Boston Ability Center is a Physical, Occupational, and Speech Therapy clinic that focuses on treating young children with a wide range of disabilities. Their self-described mission is to: “create a community where children develop skills and parents feel empowered by knowledge and support”. This summer we had the opportunity to work with both clinicians and children as we observed and participated in therapy sessions.
In June, we were able to shadow one of Boston Ability Center’s physical therapists, Brian Heilferty. While working with Brian, we would join him for his many therapy sessions during the day. We were able to see many different types of patients, who were being seen for different reasons and learned how to work with each of them. Patients had a wide variety of physical difficulties that made each physical therapy session unique. We would do many different things during the treatment session. For example, with younger patients we would try to keep them interested and entertained. For older patients, we would act more as a peer and even participate in the exercises with them. By observing Brian, we were able to learn from his many years of experience on how to interact with different types of patients to help them get the most out of their treatment sessions. Overall, shadowing Brian prepared us to work in the intensive therapy camp. Each of us were now ready to be paired with a patient and work with them each day.
Later in the summer, we took part in what is known as intensive therapy camp. Each day, a group of 5-8 campers would arrive at 9 and stay until 12. Their hours were filled by therapy sessions with a clinician and what was known as “camp time”. We interned alongside many other high school and college students, and each one of us was paired with a patient for each day, oftentimes the same patient many days in a row. Our days consisted of sticking with our camper as they made their way through whatever therapy sessions may await them that day. Since each camper had two therapy sessions per day, each in a different discipline, we learned so much about therapy for children in whatever form it may come in. We also learned about the discipline of occupational therapy, and attempted to have the children use their bodies for day-to-day function as best they could. We learned about physical therapy, often trying to help a child practice their walking, marching, hopping, or even balancing. We also learned about speech therapy, and watched as clinicians helped children learn to communicate in a number of ways whether that was pointing at a board with pictures or verbalizing. These therapies occupied the first two hours of camp, and during these times we were paired with a clinician, but in the third hour, we became more responsible for looking after the child we were paired with individually. In this hour, we would complete a gross motor activity as well as a fine motor activity. The gross motor activity sometimes consisted of throwing or placing objects, but also sometimes included running and tagging games. The fine motor activity was always a craft in which the children needed to use their hands to move small objects in order to create pictures or even model magic sculptures.
One great element of the camp is the group. In the everyday function of the Boston Ability Center, most children receive treatment one-on-one with a clinician. The camp experience, however, allows the children to play together as well as with the interns in order to make some new friends and develop a sense of camaraderie.
We want to thank Jan Wade, MacKenzie Rickert and Brian Heilferty for being such great hosts in our time and allowing us to learn so much, it was truly a wonderful experience.