Walking, running, lifting and playing are skills that one third grader in Canutillo does not take for granted. As a student, Lucas faces many challenges when it comes to the basic physical skills he needs to access his education.
But, with a little help from a big heart, he moves closer to success.
When Lucas was evaluated for age appropriate gross and fine motor skills by Canutillo ISD Physical Therapist Harriet Baumann, DPT, it was determined that he was developmentally delayed. Baumann, in her seventh year with CISD and the only physical therapist in the District, has worked with Lucas since he was three years of age on areas such as his range of motion, strength and balance. She explains the role the District plays in the lives of students like Lucas.
“The primary focus of physical therapy as a related service in the educational environment differs from clinical physical therapy,” Baumann explained. “Physical therapy in schools is used to support the student’s educational program to ensure access to learning activities.”
Students are supported in their daily routine at school through accommodations and modifications to their environment. This includes direct PT services on their campus and indirect services such as recommendations for appropriate adaptive equipment for home and school, procuring the equipment through Medicaid, private insurance, charities or private funds, as well as staff, student and parent education on its use to facilitate success and learning.
“We are here to make sure that each child has better and safer access to their educational environment – anything that helps them get to their classroom or their desk,” Baumann said. “Here in Canutillo, we integrate students into the school community. We support the educational program. Physical therapy is not the program.”
Physical therapists look at the students’ needs for safe positioning, transfers, mobility, endurance and self-help skills. This may include support of adaptive equipment for function, rest, comfort, access, and specific training for students, staff members and families. Baumann also says that education is one of the major parts of her job educating parents or staff about obesity, musculoskeletal and neurological disorders and how they affect them as well as precautions to take with the child in the classroom.
“We focus on the child and family’s goals within the educational and community setting,” Baumann added. “I educate them about services and equipment that are available to them – to see that we can support the family as a unit. It’s fun to watch them grow together over the years and change.”
Lucas’ father, Tim, is happy to see Lucas, who was diagnosed with a chromosomal syndrome, make progress.
“Lucas has improved a lot. We are very thankful for the services the District and Mrs. Baumann has provided,” Tim said. “She helped us get an adaptive tricycle. He loves the trike and we take him for rides.”
In addition to her regular duties as a physical therapist, “Harri” coordinates with a dedicated group of advocates to lead Team Canutillo in the Greater El Paso Special Olympics where Lucas participated for the first time this year.
“It was very joyful for us to see Lucas participate in the events. It brought tears to our eyes. We’re happy that Canutillo is involved in the Special Olympics,” Tim added.
Baumann cannot contain the rewarding feelings she has helping students learn in their environment.
“The best part of my day is when all of a sudden, something just clicks with a student and we hit a milestone,” Baumann expressed. “Lucas has made tremendous progress in functional access and his motor skills. Every day I come to work, I can’t believe I am fortunate enough to have made this is my profession. I think have the most rewarding job in Canutillo.”
National Physical Therapy Month is observed in October. For more information on physical therapy tips to get moving or keep moving for life, visit the American Physical Therapy Association Move Forward website.