Recently, Jacob’s Ladder Pediatric Rehabilitation was awarded a $5000 grant from the Porter County Community Foundation to initiate a Summer Intensive Program. Now in the midst of the second of two weeks, it is having a tremendous impact on the growth and development of the participating children at Jacob’s Ladder.
Research has demonstrated that intensive therapies, like the one made possible through the Porter County Community Foundation’s grant, can have much more positive affect on children who have plateaued in their treatment and progression. More therapy over a shorter period of time, which is the basis of Jacob’s Ladder’s Summer Intensive Program, has been shown to help children push through that plateau and continue to advance and improve their abilities.
To start, Jacob’s Ladder hand selected children who could benefit from the program to help reach their development goals. As opposed to most treatment plans which involve bi-weekly sessions, this Summer Intensive Program included one full week of session from Monday to Friday, including two sessions of physical, occupational, and speech therapies every day from 9:00am to 2:00pm.
After the first week of intensives, parents and children were given an at-home program which lasted for three weeks, and included a new audio program called Therapeutic Listening, before returning for another full week of in-center therapy.
Christina Williams is the parent of one of the children in the Summer Intensive Program. She spoke about some of the amazing steps her daughter has taken since beginning the program in July.
“It feels like her abilities have exploded over the first week, the three weeks in between and then this final week,” said an enthusiastic Williams. “It’s been one of the best things that could’ve happened. Just coming here in general has been one of the things that I credit towards her being who she is now. She didn’t really have any social skills when she started and Jacob’s Ladder has changed everything, and what she’s been able to do these past four weeks has been amazing to see.”
“It makes us really happy,” she added. “It’s changed so much. When we first came to Jacob’s Ladder a year ago, she maybe had ten words. Now, I don’t even know how many she has, but I’d say we’re close to 200. I don’t think we’d be doing preschool starting next week if it wasn’t for this place and what the staff at Jacob’s Ladder has been able to do. I think we would’ve been kind of lost.”
Leslie Smith, whose son Justin is taking part in the program, echoed Williams’ sentiments in saying, “There was a three week break and in those three weeks I noticed that he was being more creative. He’s extremely smart academically and is doing addition and subtraction, and is not in kindergarten yet but he’s not very creative at all. Now, he has this ukulele and he’s making up songs. Next, I noticed he was coloring and he didn’t have an orange marker so he colored it yellow originally and then colored over it with red to make orange, and I thought, ‘That’s brilliant!’” So, he’s definitely been thinking and processing his world in new ways.”
“During the three week break we literally had a schedule that we had to follow and it forced us to continue that intensive work. He’s been here for two-and-a-half years and this has been much faster in making progress. They work on him being aware of his surroundings and it’s pushed him much more into the social realm because of that work.”
These intensive programs have been utilized by other organizations around the U.S. A Jacob’s Ladder parent, Melissa Sorice, had been researching something similar for her child. She had thought of relocating to Colorado, where her son could participate in such a program. As luck would have it, not long after that Sorice received an announcement from Jacob’s Ladder about the upcoming program which was nearly identical to what she had been looking into. She was struck by the coincidence.
“There’s a foundation in Colorado that I’ve been researching and that was one of the places that had a program that was very intense,” Sorice said. “This is that program! I got the email from Jacob’s Ladder about it and I nearly started crying. I mean, I have tears now thinking about how excited that I was that the program came here. It was meant to be, it was a blessing and an answer to my prayers.”
“The benefits of this program are huge because they’re getting the therapy day-to-day, and their memory, muscle tone, and responses are better able to respond and memorize what it is they’re teaching them through a sensory integrated approach therapy,” she added. “To go through this intense program where they’re getting two doses of occupational therapy, physical therapy, and speech in a day is amazing. His body is responding to everything and you can see it. The other benefit is that the therapists get to see and learn about your child in ways that you might not have the ability to communicate to them. I don’t feel lost and it’s confirmation that I’m not in this alone. Someone is actually seeing it, they can help, and it’s amazing.”
Jacob’s Ladder’s Laura Crohan, clinical coordinator and speech therapist, and Michael Madsen, physical therapist, are part of the team conducting the Summer Intensive Program. They touched on some of what has made the experience special and incredibly valuable for the children and their families.
“We were very fortunate to have the Porter County Community Foundation grant to sponsor our first intensive program to really target their goals and targeting therapeutic listening,” said Crohan.
Madsen added, “It allowed us to see what the families are going through on a day-to-day basis. I have expectations about what I’d like to see but now we’re with them every day and our expectations can be changed. For me it’s been very interesting to be able to put ourselves in these parents’ shoes and, ultimately, it’s increased our ability to help and empathize with families.”
“Another big part of the program has been the Therapeutic Listening program,” Madsen said. “All the kids have some sort of sensory integration or processing things going on. We get an idea where they’re at from a sensory perspective and we’re giving them some specific music twice a day that helps them be able to feel regulated, and put them in an active, alert state. We monitor the changes and we’re able to progress their music selections. We continue to monitor changes in their defensiveness and, in my opinion, if they’re less defensive they’re easier to work with and you can really help them achieve their goals.”
Crohan explained, “They feel more comfortable and they can focus more, not on how their body is feeling, but on the goals we’re trying to accomplish. One of our children has been able to talk a lot more and she feels safer in her environment. She’s exploring her environment more, her vocabulary is now expanding, and she’s realizing there’s more things happening around her.”
Four children participated in the Summer Intensive Program that spanned July-August of 2017. The Porter County Community Foundation grant covered the cost of eight participants, so Jacob’s Ladder plans to host another Intensive Program in the near future.
To find out more about Jacob’s Ladder and to see how you can donate your time, talent, or treasure to the organization, visit: www.jacobskids.org