15 years ago I created HeartSpace Physical Therapy for Children in order to provide private, home-based Physical Therapy services for children and families in southern Ontario. The goal was to create a relaxed atmosphere, where children and families could talk and play, and take the time to build a positive, trusting relationship with me in their natural environment. I have always believed that this relationship was a crucial piece for families in their journey towards their goals.
I serve children with a variety of diagnoses; Torticollis, Cerebral Palsy, Down Syndrome, low muscle tone, Autism Spectrum Disorder, Developmental Delay or Developmental Coordination Disorder. Many families seek therapy because their children are experiencing generalized difficulty with motor skills that makes it harder for them to keep up with their peers.
When I first began my practice, I struggled to understand the multiple systems that were involved in my clients. I sought continuing education that allowed me to understand and treat the combined soft tissue, visual, vestibular, emotional and motor control issues that challenged them.
I always begin by asking myself why a child moves their body in a particular way and what is preventing them from progressing. The answer is found in an in-depth understanding of postural control – the process by which we keep our body upright and stable. I marvel at how postural control underlies every single one of our motor skills whether they be gross motor, fine motor, oral motor, respiration or phonation; difficulties with postural control can affect them all. Combining my clinical experience with new research provides an exciting understanding of the complexity of postural control and how to treat it.
I have also come to realize that many of my clients are stuck in a stress reaction. Children often startle or cry easily or shut down when they are challenged. First and foremost I understand that I need to help them be calm and alert; without this there can be no comfort and no learning.
I now enjoy speaking with pediatric therapists all over the world. There are so many talented people doing their best for the children in their care and I am excited to be able to connect with many of them on social media. I also enjoy meeting therapists as I teach continuing education courses across North America.
25 years ago I began as a pediatric therapist. But many of the children I have known are now adults and still call me if they require Physical Therapy services; it can be difficult to find a therapist who understands the issues faced by adults with developmental disabilities. I continue to learn and expand my knowledge base and combine this with my clinical skills in a problem-solving approach. This process allows me to facilitate optimum function for each of my clients.
Shelley Mannell PT
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