Most people don’t really know much about occupational therapy, can you give us a brief description?
Occupational therapy essentially uses every day activities (i.e. occupations, or directed play in the case of children) to help build physical, emotional and cognitive skills. We see children with a range of challenges including: behavioral issues, learning disabilities, lack of coordination or balance, sensory processing dysfunction, autism, ADHD, physical disabilities and more. Our therapy focuses on areas such as sensory integration, daily living activities (dressing, feeding, hygiene, and other self care skills), gross and fine motor coordination, arm and trunk strengthening, school skills, handwriting, social skills and transitioning between activities. We use play as a vehicle for therapeutic exercise along with specialized therapeutic approaches to target skill areas.
Connected Kids incorporates occupational therapy into a one-on-one gymnastics setting to build both large and small motor skills, confidence and self-help skills. We combine social interaction, sensory integration, strengthening, coordination, sequencing and following directions to help children achieve new skills and have fun at the same time.
Our traditional occupational therapy business, Therapeutic Links, is currently enrolled in the Illinois Early Intervention program and we are also working to enroll Connected Kids.
While we are both using a gymnastics facility, the similarities end there. Our program is tailored to each individual child and therapy based rather than skill based. While gymnastics skills are inevitably built in the process, we are working on the whole child, just in a gymnastics setting rather than at home or in a traditional facility.
This is such a unique business offering, tell me how it came about?
My office manager and friend Sharon came to me one day with this idea and I quickly realized that there was a strong need and nobody to fill that need in this area. We opened Connected Kids this past summer and business has taken off from there.
Which gymnastics facilities do you partner with to provide this unique service?
We currently work with four gymnastics facilities in the Lake County area:
- Ultimate Gymnastics in Gurnee
- US Gymnastics in Lake Zurich
- International Gymnastics in Mount Prospect
- Altius Gymnastics in Franklin, WI
Some of our clients are referred to us by the facility while other clients come to us independently. Either way, we work with every family to determine the ideal setting to meet their therapeutic goals; whether it is at home, within a group, at a gymnastics facility or a traditional therapy center depends on the needs of the child.
What would you say to a family who is curious about occupational therapy and wondering if it will help their child?
We offer a free 15 minute screening and questionnaire to all of our potential clients to help identify areas of development and whether occupational therapy could help build those skills. It never hurts to ask.
How do you manage to balance being a mom to three children, a therapist and a business owner?
First off, I have an amazing husband who truly partners with me to parent our children. He is a teacher so his schedule, especially in the summer, enables him to care for the kids when I am especially busy. Also, I work in the office three days a week, allowing me to spend the rest of the time with my children, still working of course, but taking them along with me while I work. I also enjoy spending time on the chain with friends to unwind and have fun.
Do you miss the days when you were an occupational therapist without the added stress of running a business?
I became an occupational therapist because I love working with kids and I am very passionate about what I do. While I still do therapy, it is much less frequent while I build my business and nurture my own children. I am fortunate to have amazing therapists and office management on my staff that I can trust.
It is a definite challenge. It’s a tremendous asset to have the experience that I have but I also learned to stop myself when I am spending too much time analyzing my children’s development so I can enjoy being a mom rather than always being a therapist.