A Physical, Occupational and Speech Therapy Clinic


by Molly Thornton

As I sit here typing up this article, I become aware that my muscles are holding my body upright without difficulty. My arms position my hands just right on the keyboard, and my fingers coordinate together automatically to strike the keys and create the words that my brain has put together. I am able to plan out the words I want to say and arrange them on the page in an organized fashion in order to communicate my thoughts properly.

What would it be like to not have the muscle tone to hold up my head? What if my arms were too weak or uncoordinated to position my hands on the keyboard? What if I was unable to communicate my thoughts and needs to those around me? How would it feel to not be able to participate in the activities that are meaningful to me? What if it were my child who was having difficulty doing these things?

As children develop, they progress through a series of “developmental milestones,” such as sitting, crawling, and walking. While every child develops at their own pace, delays in reaching milestones may warrant a screening by the child’s healthcare provider to see if there is a developmental delay.

Developmental Disabilities
Developmental disabilities are estimated to occur in about 17 percent of children. This group of conditions includes impairments in physical abilities, learning, language skills, and behavior. Research has shown that early intervention can greatly improve a child’s development. Many children in Whatcom County are in need of physical, occupational, or speech therapy to address these conditions, but are unable to find the care they need due to long waitlists or inability to pay for services.

This brings me to Kids In Motion Therapy Clinic (KIMTC), a local nonprofit that helps fill a critical care gap in Whatcom County, providing affordable and accessible therapy services for kids in need.

Therapists at KIMTC work with patients from infancy through adolescence with a variety of diagnoses, including developmental delay, autism spectrum disorder, attention deficit disorder, cerebral palsy, Down syndrome, and more. The therapy process typically begins with a referral from the child’s healthcare provider for physical, occupational, or speech therapy services. The therapist performs an interview with the child and their family, followed by an examination and evaluation of the child’s function. Therapists are then able to determine which interventions to use to work towards goals that are meaningful to the child and their family.

Therapists at Kids in Motion
Physical therapists (PTs) are movement specialists who help children work towards functioning independently and promote participation in various activities at home, school, and the community. PTs work closely with parents and family members to develop and implement a personalized intervention program for each child. Physical therapist assistants (PTAs) often help with carrying out the plan of care set by the supervising PT.

PTs and PTAs work with children on movement, mobility, strengthening, motor learning, balance, coordination, posture, tone management, and pain management. They help make recommendations for special equipment such as wheelchairs, walking aids, braces, and orthotics. They teach children and their families strategies to promote increased participation and independence with mobility tasks, recreation, and play.

Occupational therapists (OTs) are practitioners who help people participate in their daily occupations, or everyday activities. For children, these “occupations” include playing, learning, and socializing. OTs create personalized goals with children and their families to help them succeed in activities that are meaningful to them. Certified occupational therapist assistants (COTAs) often help with carrying out the plan of care set by the supervising OT.

OTs and COTAs work with children on a wide range of activities at home, school, and in the community. They work with children on fine and gross motor tasks, hand-eye coordination and other visual tasks, sensory tasks, maintaining positive behaviors, and more. This extensive variety of activities includes anything from getting dressed, playing with siblings or peers, improving concentration at school, being able to ride the school bus successfully, using crayons and markers, decreasing sensory sensitivity, to developing routines for daily tasks at home such as getting ready for bed. 

Speech-Language Pathologists (SLPs) are practitioners who treat children with problems with speech, language, thinking, and swallowing. They work to prevent, assess, diagnose, and treat speech, language, social-communication, cognitive-communication, and swallowing disorders.

SLPs work with children on articulation and fluency of speech, receptive and expressive language skills, swallowing and self-feeding, memory, and concentration. They help individuals with severe communication deficits learn to use augmentative or alternative communication systems, if needed.

What Does Therapy Look Like?
After reading the above descriptions of each therapy service, you might be worrying that the therapy sessions could be far too boring for a child to tolerate. That is not the case! KIMTC therapists are magicians when it comes to engaging children in therapeutic activities. A good therapy session will look just like play.

: One of KIMTC’s therapy swings, located in our clinic space at Christ the King Church. Therapeutic swings offer vestibular stimulation to kids with sensory processing disorders and other special needs.
Photographer: Julia Creech, PTA

Standardized assessments are often incorporated into a child’s physical, occupational, or speech therapy evaluations to measure skills and functional development. These tests are often used to justify the need for therapy services to private insurance companies and qualify children for early intervention services. The use of standardized tests helps to ensure that children with developmental delays are receiving the therapy they need.

All of the therapists work in close partnership with the child’s family and other members of the rehabilitation team in order to establish personalized treatment plans and work towards goals that are meaningful and important to the child and the family.

Where Does the Therapy Happen?
KIMTC offers both in-home and center-based therapy services, allowing families to choose which setting works best for them and their children. For some families, it is just not practical to load everyone up and head to the clinic for a therapy session. Having therapists come to the child’s home for therapy sessions takes away the stress of transportation, which can be a major barrier for some families seeking care. It also allows for the therapists to assess how a child is functioning in their own environment, which can make it easier to incorporate therapy tasks into the child’s routine and allow for improved carryover when the therapist is not present.

For some families, the clinic space better provides the structure, equipment, and space necessary to complete specific therapy tasks. The clinic setting can help to minimize distractions (no siblings playing nearby, etc.), which can be very important for some children. It also allows for the use of a wide variety of equipment that can’t be transported to the home, such as our therapy swings. Our clinic space is located at Christ the King Church in Bellingham, Washington.

Employment, Volunteer Opportunities
Kids In Motion Therapy Clinic is always looking for more volunteers and staff to help us work towards our mission of providing affordable, quality care to children when they need it most. Please email us or visit our website for current volunteer opportunities and job openings. (See contact information in next column.)

Donation Opportunities
Kids In Motion Therapy Clinic runs on donations from gracious community members and local businesses. Donations help to directly cover the cost of therapy services, help pay the therapists’ salaries, and are used to purchase essential equipment. Please visit our website and click the “Give” tab to make a donation. Our annual Run, Roll and Stroll fundraiser will be kicking off again this summer. This is our biggest fundraiser of the year, which helps us keep doing this important work! If you would like to help sponsor our event, please visit our website for more information. (See contact information below.)

Contact Us
If you think your child might need services, have questions about the therapy process, or are looking for more information on Kids In Motion Therapy Clinic, please reach out. You can call us at (360) 207-4434, visit our website at www.kidsinmotionclinic.org, or follow us on Facebook and Instagram by searching @kidsinmotiontherapyclinic .  


Molly Thornton is a volunteer for Kids In Motion Therapy Clinic. She has served on the board of directors since 2020.

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