Joy and Growth
Eastern physical therapy students learn by assisting little ones in need.
By Eastern Magazine
Watching children grow, play and learn is a timeless joy. It’s a pleasure made even more palpable when kids with developmental delays and disabilities are doing these things with the help of EWU physical therapy students.
This was the scene last summer at the Joya Child and Family Development Center in Spokane, a facility that provides developmental therapy for children up to age 3. Therapy at Joya often looks like play time — with toys, cheers and laughter — especially when the personalized sessions are led by enthusiastic Eagles.
The students’ work with the Joya kids was a clinical internship requirement of EWU’s Pediatric Summer Seminar, a course created last year by EWU instructor and Joya physical therapist, Ginette Kerkering.
She says she set up the internships after realizing that working with kids at Joya would be a perfect opportunity for Eastern students to get hands-on training at a pediatric facility.
“The lab on campus is really just set up for adult clients and students,” says Kerkering. “Because they are able to come to Joya to complete this, they are able to work with children in a kid-friendly environment with all of the standard equipment that is available.”
The seminar, she adds, is aimed at physical therapy graduate students interested in working with the youngest of patients. “This is a great experience for them to get some hands-on time learning to evaluate and develop a treatment plan for children,” says Kerkering. “Then they get to follow through on their treatment plan and make changes daily depending on what works and what doesn’t work. They also get exposure talking to parents.”
“It’s been amazing so far,” says third-year graduate student Hannah Carey-Brown. “It’s been our first clinical experience working with pediatric patients and so we got to apply what we’ve been learning for the past two years.”
Parents with kids at Joya do not pay anything extra for their children’s time with EWU students. During one therapy session over the summer, it was obvious that the adults in the room very much shared the joy as their happy little ones grew stronger with each student-led session.
“The EWU students have so much creativity and enthusiasm and are very invested in their little clients,” Kerkering says. “And our little clients get to be teachers to the graduate students by showing them their skills and how [the students] can help them move. I think that everyone goes home tired but smiling.”