Interviewed by Erika Goyer, Hand to Hold Family Support Navigator
Raising a kid with special health and developmental needs can seem daunting! Often, we come home from the NICU with a list of follow-up appointments to make, screenings to do and specialists to see. Each month Hand to Hold will talk to a different therapist, specialist or provider to learn more about them and what they do. This month we talked to Doug Levine, who has a Master’s degree in physical therapy and is the owner of Growing Places Therapy Services, PLLC. Growing Places Therapy Services is also a member of Hand to Hold’s Early Intervention Coalition.
What does a Physical Therapist do?
I work with children and their families in their home to help provide as much independence as possible. Each child and each family has different goals. My job is to assess the child, listen to what their goals are (or the goals of the parents and caretakers) and make a plan to help them to achieve these goals. We work on strengthening, balance and coordination. We assess whether a child could benefit from special equipment. If they will we can help the family order it and train them in its proper use. We also help them connect with programs or organizations that provide the support they need.
Doug, when might a family come see you? How do they get a referral?
A doctor’s prescription is needed in order to access physical therapy services. If a parent or their physician suspects a delay or abnormality that may affect their gross motor skills, they can contact me and we can do a physical therapy evaluation to determine if further physical therapy is needed. The earlier problems are addressed the better. So even if a family is not sure if there is a problem or delay, many times it is better to have an evaluation by the therapist to be sure.
You provide therapy in the home and in the child’s “natural environment.” What are the advantages of doing this over meeting at a clinic or office?
Many children feel more comfortable in familiar surroundings. Doing the therapy in the home, daycare or in the community also makes it much easier for the parents and caregivers. They don’t have to spend so much of their time driving the child back and forth to therapy.
What would you tell families they should expect at their first appointment?
We keep the first appointment very low pressure. First we sit down to talk to get a history and see what the issues or concerns are. Then we assess the child to determine what the strengths and weaknesses are and see if there are problems that we need to address. Finally, we develop goals and a plan to help achieve the goals.
What roles do the parents need to play in their child’s therapy?
I like the parents to take a very active role in the therapy process. We’re a team and all of us play an important role in their child’s progress. I want to educate the parents and give them a program they can implement at home. I always tell the parents that what I’m doing with their child a couple of times a week is important, but not as important as what they’re doing with their child every day!
Finally, what sort of licensing and certification do practitioners in your field go through? What professional associations are you a member of?
Physical Therapists have a Master’s degree or doctorate in physical therapy which they pursue after getting a four- year undergraduate degree. I am a member of the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) and Texas Physical Therapy Association (TPTA).
Erika Goyer is the mother of three boys and a family support navigator with Hand to Hold. Her oldest son Carrick Michael was born at 27 weeks gestation and weighed 1 pound, 14 ounces. Carrick died soon after his birth due to complications of prematurity. Erika went on to have two more high-risk pregnancies and two healthy sons, one of whom has developmental delays.