Cheryl Farley, Director of Physical Therapy Services at The Kingsbury Center, shares her love for helping children gain, regain or improve their physical abilities so they can lead a fuller life.
When friends ask what I like best about my job, I answer without hesitation: I love working with the kids I serve at The Kingsbury Center. When asked what I like least about my job, I answer just as quickly: I’m not a fan of the paperwork that goes along with the profession.
So to say I had a sense of dread come over me when I was approached to write a blog would be an understatement. I was definitely focused on the fact that I hate to write. On my way to work, as I obsessed over having to write this blog, it struck me that I could write about what I DO enjoy – working with kids. Furthermore, I could write about the journey that led to this discovery and the many reasons for my enjoyment.
Starting in college I was totally convinced that I was going to work with adults in outpatient orthopedics. I started my first clinical internship in an outpatient clinic with the same mind set. I quickly determined that I hated it, because it was b-o-r-i-n-g. I started my second internship in the same setting with the same mindset and had the exact same result. I entered my last clinical rotation reluctantly having been placed in a pediatric setting. Working with children was hard; it was challenging; it forced me to be creative; and, I loved every minute of it. Fifteen years later, I still do.
As a pediatric physical therapist at The Kingsbury Center, I love working with children and families, to help kids reach their goals. There is always a puzzle to solve and for each child a different way to approach it.
If Johnny’s family, for instance, is concerned that he is having difficulty navigating stairs, it is my job to figure out that his challenges are due to poor postural stability, lack of hip extension, decreased lower extremity strength, trouble with weight shift, or difficulties with motor planning and sequencing. Once the “why” is figured out, then the real reason I love what I do comes into play: developing a treatment plan that motivates Johnny to be an active partner with me in building his skills. The ultimate payoff is not watching Johnny climbing the stairs during our physical therapy sessions independently and with an air of confidence (although I’m certainly pleased he’s made this progress). The big payoff is when Johnny’s parents report that their child is taking that skill and climbing the steps that allow him to access the play structure at his community playground; a feat that he previously avoided.
As a pediatric physical therapist I get to work on helping to improve so many skills that allow kids to be kids: throwing, catching, jumping, hopping, climbing and skipping, to name a few. In a school setting, on a typical day, I might be found assisting a student in the classroom, to help with proper alignment for seating; in the hallway, to carefully weave through a crowd of students when switching classes; on the playground, to safely climb ladders or cross the monkey bars; or in a physical education class, modifying an activity that permits their successful participation.
By breaking down a gross motor movement that is a struggle, and providing in a creative manner the foundational skills needed to be successful in performing it, a child is then better able to participate with his or her peers, in school and out of school. Along with new skills, the child also gains self-confidence and that’s very rewarding to the child, to his/her parents and to me. Self-confidence is an asset in all areas of life, and can positively impact a child’s educational, social and recreational experiences.
Do I love to write? That answer is still NO. Do I love being in a profession and working at a place that allows me to help transform a child’s gross motor skills so they participate in a multitude of settings and activities? Absolutely! I’m fortunate to have opportunity to do just that, at The Kingsbury Center.