PTN News

Things We Are Grateful For This Year
Things We Are Grateful For This Year 1080 1080 PTN Chicago

Believe it or not, there are only a few months left in 2023, and Thanksgiving is just around the corner! We love this time of year as it allows us to express our sincere gratitude to all of our PTN families, kids, and therapists. We truly couldn’t do what we do without each and every one of you and we are so appreciative that we get to work with incredible families who are committed to their children’s growth. You’ve all made our year incredibly special!

To continue with our theme of gratitude during November, we wanted to share some things we are thankful for this year. From our PTN families and kids, to our compassionate team of PTN therapists and more, here are some things that top our gratitude list for 2023:

We’re grateful for…

Our Hardworking PTN Kids: Working with children is not only special, but truly rewarding on so many levels. They work so hard day in and day out to develop their skills and never give up. The resilience and determination children have is unmatched and we love seeing them grow during each therapy session. Thank you, PTN kiddos, for making our job so much fun and for allowing us to help you work on your goals. You inspire all of us more than you know!

Our Supportive PTN Families: We are grateful for our PTN families!  We couldn’t do what we do without you. The love and support that you show your little ones is inspiring! Thank you for welcoming us into your homes with open arms and for helping your children work on developing their skills whether through at-home therapy games and activities, or simply being a source of continual support and cheerleading. 

Our Kind and Compassionate Therapists: Another thing we are grateful for is our wonderful team of therapists. They work so hard each and every day and really enjoy helping your kiddos learn and grow. We know how much our PTN therapists care about helping your children work on developing their skills and we are so thankful that they are a part of our team. Thank you for all that you do, PTN therapists!

The Opportunity to Help Your Little Ones Grow: Our favorite thing in the entire world is helping your little ones learn, grow, and have fun. We are extremely thankful for the opportunity to work with your kiddos and sincerely cherish the time we spend with them during therapy sessions. Thank you for allowing us into your homes and for allowing us to play an active role in the lives of your children.  We cannot wait to work with your little ones throughout the rest of 2023 and beyond.

We are so grateful to work with all of you and appreciate each of our PTN families, kids, and therapists. Thank you for a wonderful 2023!  We look forward to seeing what the future holds. Enjoy spending time with your loved ones this Thanksgiving, and if you have time, feel free to check out these fantastic Thanksgiving-themed therapy activities that your children are sure to love.  

Fun Idea: during the month of November, when you put your child to sleep or have dinner as a family, why not ask them to name one thing they are thankful for that day? The answers may not only delight you, but SURPRISE you.

5 Reasons That We’re Thankful For This Past Year
5 Reasons That We’re Thankful For This Past Year 1080 1080 PTN Chicago

Can you believe that it’s already November? We sure can’t! Though it’s crazy to think that 2021 is quickly coming to a close, we love this time of year. With Thanksgiving right around the corner, it gives us the chance to express our gratitude to all of the people who mean so much to us – our PTN families, kids, and therapists!

This past year has been so challenging. We’ve all had to make adjustments and adapt to this new way of life, and our PTN family has been a blessing through it all. No matter what obstacles have come our way, we still have so many reasons to be thankful and know that we can always count on all of our PTN families, kids, and therapists.

To continue our month of gratitude, we wanted to take this time to share 5 reasons that we’re thankful for this past year. Hint: One of the reasons has to do with everyone who is a part of our amazing PTN family!

1. We Got to Work With Amazing Children That Inspire Us: We are so grateful to have had the opportunity to work with each one of our PTN children this past year. It is such a privilege to help them work on their therapy skills and watch them grow. Our PTN kiddos are so inspiring and are the reason that we love what we do. Thank you, PTN kids!

2. Getting Support From Our PTN Families: Another reason that we’re thankful for this past year is the support we’ve received from our PTN families. You always welcome us into your homes with open arms and are committed to working with us to help your incredible children with their therapy. We honestly couldn’t do what we do without you. Thank you!

3. Our PTN Team is Closer Than Ever Before: This past year has also allowed our PTN team to grow closer than ever before. Having to conduct therapy sessions in-person and online has been an adjustment, but our team has worked extremely hard as a team to make sure that we can offer your kiddos a wonderful therapy experience. The support that our team shows one another is something special, and we are so grateful for that. Thank you, PTN team!

4. This Past Year Taught Us to Be Innovative: In the past, we’ve only offered in-person therapy. But, due to the coronavirus, our online telehealth program is in full swing.  Though this was an adjustment at first, it has allowed us to expand our services and continue to provide therapeutic support throughout the pandemic. 

5. It Showed Us the Importance of Working Together: The final reason that we are thankful for this past year is that it showed us the importance of working together. Helping each kiddo grow is a team effort, and it can only be achieved if our PTN families, kids, and therapists work together. Working as a team makes it possible to help each child develop their skills and grow, and we’re thankful for the opportunity to work together with every one of you!

Be sure to keep an eye on our social media (Instagram, Facebook, and Pinterest) all month long as we continue to express our gratitude to all of you! We’ll also be sharing helpful tips, activities, resources, and more! As always, please don’t hesitate to contact us at any time to discuss if your child would benefit from pediatric therapy. Our team is here to support both you and your child in any way that we can.

An Attitude of Gratitude Amidst 2020’s Challenges
An Attitude of Gratitude Amidst 2020’s Challenges 1080 1080 PTN Chicago

2020 has been a year of extreme highs and lows for most of us. For the first time in our lives, we’ve had to navigate a global pandemic that, even now, remains unstable. We’ve seen uncertainty every which way we’ve looked. From dear friends and family members being hospitalized due to Covid, to the small businesses we frequent having to close their doors. Now, we’re struggling to figure out schooling and what the rest of the year will look like as flu season nears. What will 2021 look like?

Perhaps the hardest part is being steadfast for our children. Our kids count on us to have everything under control, to provide them with a deep sense of security, and to show them by example that “everything is OK.”  Even when it’s not.  We’ve seen so many of our families bravely take on this pandemic and make dramatic changes almost overnight.  As if being the parent of a special needs child isn’t challenging enough, we’ve had to throw into the mix virtual therapy, completely new routines, and an entirely new way of living life.

The PTN team deeply empathizes with the challenges our parents and families have had to navigate.  We know this time has not been easy.  We know that each of you are trying your very best when the world seems like it is at its very worst.  We know that you’re tired, losing sleep, emotionally exhausted, and looking for hope anywhere you can find it.  We know this because we are navigating challenges too… but our plan is to navigate every obstacle with you!  

One way in which we hope to overcome the struggles of 2020 is by cultivating an attitude of gratitude.  We want to find the light wherever we can and we want you to know that our team experiences so much joy and sees so much light every time we work with you and your children.  Thank you!

“It’s not happiness that brings us gratitude, it’s gratitude that brings us happiness.” – Unknown

These words are powerful and they are true.  With this message in mind, and the hope of bringing those who mean the most to us a moment of joy, we want to take this time to express our deep gratitude:

Thank you PTN Kids!

First and foremost, we are grateful during this holiday season to be able to continue working with such incredible children. The positive outlook and hard work they bring each and every day is inspiring, and we are so thankful for the opportunity to be a part of their growth.  We are so proud of how they have overcome so much during this past year and believe they are the epitome of resilience.  

Thank You PTN Parents: We Could Not Do This Without You!

Not only are our PTN kids special to us, but our PTN families are equally as important. We couldn’t do our job without your support.  We truly value the relationships we have with you as we work toward shared goals.  We know these times have been difficult and we know you may feel like the world is on your shoulders.  We want you to know we recognize all the sacrifices you’ve made and think the world of you.  

Thank You to Our Incredible Staff!

Our PTN therapists are truly the best! Thank you for coming together as a team to support one another as you have had to learn how to navigate entirely new situations, like providing therapy virtually or in masks and face shields.  Your willingness to adapt and your desire to serve children is awe-inspiring.  Know that you’ve had such an impact on the lives of so many children and your dedication has not gone unnoticed!

Thank You to Family & Friends!

We want to say thank you to our own family members and friends for helping us get through 2020.  Your support and guidance have been invaluable (even if over FaceTime).  Thank you to our immediate family members for sharing your space with us as we have had to adjust to working and learning from home together.  We feel so lucky to have you in our lives!

As we move toward the end of the year, we want to assure you that we will continue to do our very best to provide not only exceptional care to every child and family we work with, but also emotional support.  We will get through this together!

Happy Anniversary PTN
6 Favorite Fun Therapy Ideas to Ring in Our Anniversary!
6 Favorite Fun Therapy Ideas to Ring in Our Anniversary! 1000 1000 PTN Chicago

This month we are absolutely thrilled to be celebrating our ninth anniversary. The actual anniversary is June 22, and we can’t believe how fast the time has gone. It has been an absolute pleasure working with such wonderful and diverse children and their fantastic families, and we can’t wait to keep it up for another nine years – and well beyond!

To celebrate our anniversary, we wanted to share some of our favorite occupational, speech, and physical therapy activities that parents and children can enjoy together at home. These play therapies are simple and don’t require a trip to the store, but they can offer hours of entertainment while also helping your child develop skills that will last a lifetime.

For sensory development…

Nothing beats a good old-fashioned sensory bin. The great thing about sensory bins is that they can be regularly updated and adjusted with new objects that your child likes. To make your own sensory bin, first you’ll need a plastic storage tub with a lid. You probably have one under your bed or hidden away in your kitchen or closet right now. Next, fill the bin about half way with a base material that your child can safely sift through. That material might be popcorn kernels, packing peanuts, or dry rice. The final step is hiding fun sensory objects in the bin for your child to discover and enjoy. Try to find things that will engage a variety of senses. For example, puffy poms are great to touch, tea bags are fun to smell, and oversize beads are beautiful to look at!

For gross motor skills…

One of our favorite activities that helps develop gross motor skills is playing pretend! This activity is wonderful, because it can be whatever you want, and it lets both you and your child stretch your imaginations. Maybe you can take turns pretending to be different animals. Or you can pretend that the floor is lava and jump between cushions and pillows laid out on the floor. You can stomp around like dinosaurs, or practice climbing (with supervision!) like monkeys.

For fine motor skills…

A great game for developing fine motor skills and getting some occupational therapy in at the same time is Restaurant! Play this make-believe game in your kitchen with actual pots, pans, and safe utensils like spatulas. You can even break out some real food like dry pasta or those baby carrots you’ve been trying to get your child to eat to make the game even more fun. Moving the game into the kitchen helps your child gain comfort in a different environment while practicing skills like stirring, scooping, and following directions, all while being creative.

For a DIY toy…

The simplest of simple do-it-yourself toys is the cardboard roll at the center of your paper towels. When you finish a roll, hand the cardboard over to your little one and tell her that it’s a telescope, or maybe a magic wand, or tape two together and make binoculars. A cardboard roll can become a log for dolls to sit on or a tunnel for small cars or Legos to slide through.

For speech therapy…

Try playing “I Spy” around your house – or anywhere, for that matter! But home is a great place to start with this game, as your child will be able to name more of the things in their environment. This game helps with building vocabulary, especially adjectives and nouns, and also builds critical thinking skills.

For balance…

Make a gym in your living room – or any room that has soft carpet – by grabbing a stack of your child’s books and lining them up on the ground to make a balance beam. Your child will have fun standing on their books and practicing walking across them without falling off. (And if you’re worried about books being mistreated, don’t be! The more that books feel like toys and rewards, the more your child will want to look inside.)

We hope you enjoy all of these play activities this summer. Give us a call anytime for more recommendations tailored to your child!

Thank you from PTN
Thank You, Thank You, Thank You from PTN!
Thank You, Thank You, Thank You from PTN! 1000 600 Triston Kee

The year is coming to a close, and 2018 certainly seemed to fly by. As we enter the season of family, of connection, and of cozying up around blazing fires, we wanted to take a moment to thank you all for everything that you’ve done this year.

To the children we work with…

Thank you for your spirit. You show us every day what it means to live a life of joy and courage.

Thank you for your bravery. Whenever we ask you to try something new, to attempt something a little scary or a little uncomfortable, we see the bravery in your eyes and are inspired by it.

Thank you for your persistence. Sometimes you may have to work harder and longer than others, but you never let that slow you down. Your dedication and tenacity could move mountains.

To your parents…

Thank you for your trust. We are so grateful for every opportunity that we have to engage with you and your children. Thank you for putting your faith in us. We truly treasure it.

Thank you for your support. Both the support that you show us and your unending support for your children. You make sacrifices of your time, your energy, and your goals for the sake of your children, and that is an incredibly noble thing.

To your siblings…

Thank you for your patience. It’s not always easy having a brother or sister, but the love that you show for your siblings through your actions and words has such a big impact upon their confidence and wellbeing. Thank you for loving your siblings and supporting them through thick and thin.

Thank you for being a role model. Your siblings watch everything you do, and they learn so much from you. Thank you for everything that you teach your siblings just by being you.

To your whole team…

Thank you to the teachers, aunts, uncles, grandparents, family friends, occupational therapists, speech therapists, doctors, social workers and others who put their time and heart into helping the amazing children in our network thrive. You are each part of a beautiful web of support and caring that cannot be broken.

And finally, we’d like to thank everyone who works at the Pediatric Therapy Network.  Everyone on our team does such an amazing job and truly cares about what we’re accomplishing together.

We hope that you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving. Gobble gobble!

In November We Celebrate Prematurity Awareness Month
In November We Celebrate Prematurity Awareness Month 1280 853 PTN Chicago

November is the month that we all take time to remember what we’re thankful for. It’s also Prematurity Awareness Month. While one in ten babies are premature babies in the United States, one thing we are grateful for is that preterm birth rates have been on the decline, for the most part, since 2007. We are also grateful for the positive role that we at PTN get to play in the lives of preemies and their parents.

What You Need to Know from a Pediatric Therapist’s Point of View

Having your baby before he or she is full term (37 weeks) can be an extremely frightening experience. Fortunately, as medicine continues to improve, preemies face better and better odds of going on to live normal, healthy lives.

For most preemies, the road to a healthy future starts in the NICU. Depending upon the level of prematurity and early intervention procedures that are needed, a NICU stay can range from a few days to a few months. That time can be very hard on parents who just want to hold their babies and care for them at home. It can also cause a lot of relationship strain as parents have to trade off staying at the hospital and attending to the other demands of life, like work and other children.

Even though it is tough, try to remember that the time in the NICU is vital for your preemie’s healthy development. It’s also when physical therapy usually begins. Therapeutic interventions that begin in the NICU include positioning modifications, improving tolerance to handling, and strengthening activities.

A physical therapist can also teach parents how to safely hold their preemie babies, how to carry them, dress them, and how to set them down to sleep in positions that will encourage healthy growth. These sorts of preemie-specific parenting lessons can make the transition from NICU to home much less stressful for the whole family.

When that transition does come, it is important to continue physical therapy without interruption to provide the baby with continuity of care and keep building on the baby’s physical, mental, and emotional development.

Our Team of Chicago Pediatric Therapists is Here for You

If you have questions about preemies and early intervention, or if you need a physical therapist for your own preemie, do not hesitate to contact Pediatric Therapy Network (PTN). At PTN, we have years of experience helping children from preemies to childhood hit key developmental milestones and gain confidence in their abilities. We are grateful for every child we get to work with and every parent who welcomes us into their home for personalized care.

Words of Gratitude for Our Clients

PTN would like to express our sincere gratitude for our patients and their families.  We’re honored that you have chosen to work with us and that you have placed so much trust in our abilities and experience.  We genuinely love the work we do and are thrilled to be a part of both your and your child’s life.  Thank you and have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

autism awareness month in chicago
Children with Autism: Information & Activity Guide for Chicago Families
Children with Autism: Information & Activity Guide for Chicago Families 2048 1152 PTN Chicago


Note: Free autism screenings will be held at Chicago’s Spectrum Toy Store on April 23rd, 2017. Read on to learn more.

April is Autism Awareness Month! Besides wearing blue or your puzzle ribbon, there are a number of ways to support and educate throughout the month of April. Read on to learn more about different therapies for children with autism, activities in Chicago for children with autism, and how you can support Autism Awareness Month.

What is Autism?ptn

Autism is not a disease nor is it an illness. Autism is a developmental difference that is typically diagnosed during childhood, characterized by difficulty in communicating and social interactions. Many children with autism also have sensory processing and self-regulation issues.

We now know that autism is a broad spectrum with varying combinations of characteristics and challenges. These challenges might include: difficulty with social interactions, language impairments, and repetitive behaviors. With the support of therapy, children with autism can learn to manage their challenges and go on to lead productive lives.

Autism is different for every child which means every child’s treatment and therapy will be different.

Therapies for Children with Autism

Depending on where the child is on the autism spectrum, they may need one kind of therapy or a combination of therapies for a holistic approach. The treatment plan and options for each child should be individualized based upon their needs. Different types of therapies may include:

  • Speech Therapy – Children with autism struggle with communication and social interaction. Speech therapists help children learn to be effective communicators and interact with the world around them, which can help reduce frustration. Speech therapy can be very successful in helping children unlock communication and connect with others.
  • Occupational Therapy – Occupational therapy can help children manage sensory challenges that may be related to their diagnosis of autism. OT can also help children develop self-regulation strategies, work on fine motor skills, and gain independence in their daily living skills. Many children with autism crave structure and routine, so occupational therapy can assist with development of appropriate and predictable routines that can be carried out across a variety of settings.
  • Physical Therapy – Children with autism may have low muscle tone with associated strength, balance, and coordination issues. PT can aid in strengthening and balance training to improve safety and develop age-appropriate gross motor skills so children can safely explore their environment and interact with their peers.
  • Social Work (Counseling) – Our clinical social workers help children with autism embrace developmental challenges and help their families better understand behavior and needs.

Chicago Activities Guide for Children with Autism

Chicago offers a lot of fun local and community-based resources for parents and children with autism, many of which are free or low-cost. From the movies to going out to dinner in an adaptive setting, there are activities and events for the whole family. Chicago area events and resources for children with autism:

  • Sensory Friendly Films – AMC Theatres partners with the Autism Society to offer Sensory Friendly Films for children with autism. The lights are turned up, the sound is turned down, and those who need to are welcome to walk about during the film. Sensory Friendly Films are offered on the second and fourth Saturday for family films and Tuesday events for adults.
  • Autism Eats – This program started in Andover, MA with the mission to provide an autism-friendly non-judgemental dining experience for families of children with autism. The next Chicago dinner is at Fireside on April 22. You can sign up here. Follow their Chicago Autism Eats Facebook page for up-to-date info!
  • Goldfish Swim School – Children with autism are more than welcome at Goldfish Swim School. Their staff is trained to help children with autism or sensory issues learn how to swim and have fun.
  • Play for All – Chicago Children’s Museum and Navy Pier offers an event on the second Saturday of every month just for families and children with disabilities to have the museum to themselves. This event begins at 9 am and is free for the first 100 who pre-register.
  • Mornings of Fun for Everyone – Discovery Center Museum has a program that invites families and children with disabilities to come experience the museum before it opens to the public. This program is free with pre-registration.
  • Autism Family Day – DuPage Children’s Museum sets aside time every month for families of children with autism to come enjoy the museum with resources specifically for children with autism. Autism Family Day is on the third Thursday from 5-7 p.m. and costs $8.50 per person.
  • Spectrum Toy Store – This Chicago store is located at 1911 W Belmont Ave and offers toys and programs for children with autism. Elyse Sherlock of PTN says, “They sell toys that are particularly good for children with autism and also offer different programs at the location as well. One of the families I work with went recently and they loved it!”

Free Autism Screenings at Spectrum Toy Store

On April 23rd, Spectrum Toy Store will have free autism screenings. Screening will be conducted by a Developmental Pediatrician, Psychologist or Special Educator. Parents will answer questions about their child’s development in order to find out if they are at increased risk for an Autism Spectrum Disorder. Screenings will take about 15 minutes and childcare will be provided. Information about Autism and resources will be provided to families. Children at increased risk for Autism will be referred for further evaluation.

Information about Autism Spectrum Disorder

Spectrum Toy Store
1911 West Belmont Ave.
Chicago, IL 60657

Sunday 4/23/17 — 11:am to 1:00pm
Register today by clicking HERE.
or call Dr. Dodds @ 312-413-1536

Did we miss any great activities or events in the Chicago area? Let us know by commenting on this post.

How Can You Support Autism Awareness Month?

Dedicating the month of April to autism awareness helps promote autism acceptance and bring attention to those who might not understand what autism means or what they can do to help. You can support autism awareness month by:

  • Wearing your Autism Awareness Puzzle Ribbon
  • Donating to autism organizations or programs here in Chicago or where you live
  • Learning more about autism (start here: Kids with Autism Can)
  • Participating in an educational program about autism
  • Sharing your story with others

One of the best ways to engage with Autism Awareness Month is to share your story of autism! By sharing your story, you’re helping others learn more about an autism journey along with its treatment and success stories.

How Pediatric Therapy Network Helps Children with Autism

Pediatric Therapy Network (PTN) in Chicago supports children with autism through a holistic and community-based approach. Together with their families, PTN provides appropriately customized support depending on where the child is on the autism spectrum.

Our goal is to help your child succeed and thrive where he or she is comfortable, including familiar home, school, and community environments.

PTN supports the parents and the whole family with education and resources. Spending time as a family is important for every child. Luckily, in Chicago, there are lots of fun recreational activities and events for children with autism and their families, many of which are free or low-cost.

PTN specializes in a variety of therapeutic services (physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy, and counseling) and offers a unique home and community-centric approach for children with autism, working within their familiar environments to help them grow into their next. If you’re looking for more great ideas for your child with special needs or if you have questions about our services, please contact us! We look forward to serving you and your child!

Special thanks to our pediatric therapists and parents of children with autism for providing information for this blog post.




March is Cerebral Palsy Awareness Month: CP Information & Perspectives from Parents
March is Cerebral Palsy Awareness Month: CP Information & Perspectives from Parents 959 715 PTN Chicago

I wish people knew more about [Cerebral Palsy]. That it isn’t progressive or inherited. It’s a birth injury, plain and simple. Little awareness exists about birth injuries. I would like to do more to decrease the stigma that people who have CP are somehow damaged or incapable of living a full life. They were injured, NOT damaged, and are exceptional human beings.” -A PTN parent

March is Cerebral Palsy (CP) Awareness Month, and March 25th is CP Awareness Day. St. Patrick’s Day isn’t the only day in March we wear green! Here at PTN, we work with many children with CP, and we wanted to do our part to bring awareness to the neurological disorder.

Cerebral Palsy affects 1 in 323 children in the United States, and is the most common motor disability among children. With such wide prevalence, it’s astonishing to know there’s still so much misinformation out there.

What is CP?

cp ribbonThe definition of CP (according to While Cerebral Palsy (pronounced seh-ree-brel pawl-zee) is a blanket term commonly referred to as “CP” and described by loss or impairment of motor function, Cerebral Palsy is actually caused by brain damage. The brain damage is caused by brain injury or abnormal development of the brain that occurs while a child’s brain is still developing — before birth, during birth, or immediately after birth.

Cerebral Palsy affects body movement, muscle control, muscle coordination, muscle tone, reflex, posture and balance. It can also impact fine motor skills, gross motor skills and oral motor functioning.

Hemiplegia refers to one arm and leg on the same side of the body being affected. Diplegia, or paraplegia refers to when both legs are affected, and quadriplegia is used to describe CP when both arms and legs are affected.

Let’s dispel some common misconceptions:

  • CP isn’t a disease. It’s the result of injury to the brain during birth or development.
  • Because of its nature, CP can affect each child differently, depending on the location and extent of the brain damage.
  • Physical impairments can range from mild to severe. CP can affect: Balance, coordination, posture, vision, hearing, and intellect. It may also cause seizures.
  • Many children with CP grow up to be healthy, productive adults.
  • CP doesn’t mean a child is confined to a wheelchair or will not be able to talk.

CP & Therapy

CP can’t be cured, yet. The lack of a cure right now doesn’t mean there won’t be one in the future, or that your child cannot live a productive life.  Therapy can help to improve independence, access, and participation. Therapists use adaptive equipment and…

  • Physical therapy: Focuses on functional stretching and strengthening in order to improve  mobility  skills and participate in activities and daily routines and incorporates the use of adaptive equipment when necessary to improve participation and prevent secondary impairments.
  • Occupational therapy: Helps children develop fine motor and play skills and introduces adaptive products to improve independence with activities of daily living.
  • Speech therapy: Works with children who have speech, language, and swallowing difficulties. If communication is difficult, therapists can help children learn how to use a communication device to interact with their family and peers.

Though CP itself isn’t progressive, altered body mechanics because of issues with posture, balance, and muscle spasticity can contribute to a variety of issues for children as they age, in a phenomenon known as post-impairment syndrome. These conditions, such as osteoarthritis, are a result of the bone and muscle abnormalities because of the CP. While you cannot necessarily stop these issues from happening, physical therapy can help reduce the severity and delay the onset of these conditions.

National & Chicago-Area Resources for CP Patients & Families

Cerebral Palsy: PTN Parent Point-of-Views

We reached out to some of our parents and asked them a few questions.

How does therapy help your child?

“Therapy helps in so many ways.  The therapists suggest techniques to strengthen your child, provide alternatives to accomplish tasks with which he or she might be struggling, and can help provide perspective on how far your child has come.  It can be very easy to get caught up in how much work your child needs to accomplish to gain the skills that provide more independence, but therapy helps build those skills, and provides a means of measuring improvements, so that you and your child can see the progress that has been made towards your goals.”

“I think the therapy helps her to be self-aware of how her body is reacting.  She has to really try, but she can relax her muscles with great effort.  Bracing has come out of therapy and this really helps with keeping things aligned more.  I think she would have a much harder time walking and running without the bracing.”

“Therapy has helped my daughter tremendously!  We have noticed the most change with speech and physical therapy.  Our daughter mimics words and phrases that she works on with her speech therapist.   For physical therapy, we notice that once something new is introduced, she gets better and better each week.”

What are some of the struggles with therapies, for you and your child?

“In the beginning, it took our child some time to be comfortable with the therapist. Most of this was because of her age and she didn’t want to separate from us. The initial few months our daughter would cry through lots of the sessions, but it takes a creative/fun therapist to work through it. Also, some weeks it is challenging to practice the therapy techniques. You need to share it with nannies, grandparents, etc., the goals you are working on.”

What do you wish could be done to improve CP awareness?

“Ask questions and promote education instead of ignorance.”

“I really would like to see CP events more.  Usually they are hosted by families or the therapy organizations.  I would like to see an event like Spartan or Tough Mudder take on fund raising.  I would like to see more children with the special needs of CP at the events.  Just working on this task has led me to trying to raise awareness myself by raising money at these events for children.”

The parents we interviewed had unique answers for advice for parents with children who’ve received a CP diagnosis, but they all shared a common thread. If your child was just diagnosed, take a bit of time to research, but don’t panic. There are not only resources for your child, but resources to help you get the support you need to deal with the diagnosis, too.

Your child may have different abilities and struggles than the rest of the world, but they are perfect just the way they are, and the best thing you can do is treat them as normally as possible. Don’t coddle, or hold them back. Let them try again and again. They may take a while to adapt, and they may have to do things differently, but they will figure it out. There may be some things your child cannot do, but the important thing is you do not allow the CP diagnosis to define who they are. Be patient, and get ready for your child to surprise you often. 

Join us here at PTN in celebrating CP Awareness Day! We’re here to answer any questions you may have about the neurological disorder, and to help you get the resources you need for your child.

A BIG thank you to our parents and therapists for their generous time and effort in helping us create this article.

low vision awareness
Low Vision Awareness: Resources for Chicago Families
Low Vision Awareness: Resources for Chicago Families 2048 1313 PTN Chicago

“My name is Kathryn* and my 6-year-old daughter Abby* has a rare genetic condition called Pallister Killian Syndrome. One of Abby’s biggest challenges is that she’s legally blind due to Cortical Visual Impairment (CVI).

Abby was evaluated by a developmental therapist for vision (DTV) when she was 7 months old and she started receiving vision therapy at home through early intervention about 2 months later. The DTV gave our family many ideas on how to teach Abby to look at objects including what distance to present them at, and advised us to allow for latency when working on vision. We were also advised to let Abby be as comfortable as possible (lying down or sitting well-supported), so her other muscles wouldn’t have to work so hard, and she could use her vision most efficiently.

We learned that Abby will best respond to high-contrast images (black/white or yellow/red), as well as shiny objects. We were told to not correct her head turn, but to allow her to position her head at an angle that would allow her to see best. We also learned to eliminate visual clutter, and if possible, have a black background separating the environment from the object we wanted Abby to attend to.

We also explored a communication system called an eye gaze. When using it, Abby uses her eye gaze to make choices, answer questions, etc. We are in the process of appealing our insurance company’s denial of coverage for an eye gaze machine.”


Pediatric Therapy Network would like to thank Kathryn for sharing her story.

Vision is critical in early childhood development, from learning how to communicate to the development of both gross and fine motor skills.

Children with low vison often require very specific care and therapy, so it’s crucial to recognize the symptoms of low vision as early as possible and explore the resources available. Because low vision can accompany so many other conditions, it’s often overlooked—even by trained pediatric therapists and pediatricians.

As a parent of a child with special needs, disabilities or developmental delays, you may not be aware of your child also having low vision, which can go hand-in-hand with other diagnoses. In premature births and with cerebral palsy, spina bifida and neurological disorders, low vision is often an accompanying issue.

What is Low Vision?

“Low vision is a condition caused by eye disease, in which visual acuity is 20/70 or poorer in the better-seeing eye and cannot be corrected or improved with regular eyeglasses.” (Scheiman, Scheiman, and Whittaker)

Low vision is different from visual impairment in that low vision is uncorrectable. Visual impairment is often diagnosed in school-aged children, who may not be able to “see the board” in school or who show symptoms of visual impairment during a standard kindergarten vision test.

While visual impairment isn’t as severe as low vision, it’s still a serious condition that can cause significant issues as kids struggle in school:

“In general, a lot of times vision problems are overlooked. I have many students who refuse to wear their glasses so teachers forget they have a visual impairment and then they do not get the services or accommodations they need. There are so many times when teachers are writing on the board or projecting something on a screen and our students can’t even begin to make out what it says…A lot of my students have trouble in gym and the gym teacher believes it’s just a bad attitude, but in reality it’s because they’re extra cautious due to being unable to see the ball or what is in front of them.”

– Chicago Public School Teacher

reading glassesLow vision
, on the other hand, can present significant issues very early on. Infants are reliant on vision for communication. They learn to mirror facial expressions and read situations and emotion
s in others around them. An infant with low vision may display fearfulness and uncertainty when it comes to new situations. They may be at risk for delays in communication development due to their limited ability to explore their world visually. A child with low vision may also struggle with gross and fine motor skills. For example, they may overshoot when trying to pick up cereal pieces or they could miss a block or toy completely because they simply can’t see it’s there.

Low vision may also present itself in toddlers and preschoolers. Young children with low vision might struggle with stairs, fall down often, display a head tilt, or favor one direction. Pediatricians may overlook or downplay muscular imbalances in the eye, as some do correct themselves later on.

Remember, you are your child’s best advocate, so you may notice symptoms your pediatrician does not. Always discuss any concerns you have with your child’s doctor.

The Needs of a Child with Low Vision

The needs of a child with low vision can vary, depending on the level of impairment, as well as any co-diagnoses. Across the board though, most children with low vision have some specific cognitive, gross and fine motor skill, and communication needs.

A child with low vision might need:

  • Physical therapy and occupational therapy to counter any limitations on fine or gross motor development due to the effects of low vision.
  • Attention to building fine motor skills and two-hand touch activities, plus exercises designed to assist with learning Braille later on.
  • Support with communication and social interaction, as they may need help learning to socialize and play because they’re unable to see visual cues or have had trouble learning to imitate their peers due to low vision.
  • Help with body awareness, spatial recognition, and sensory issues, as well as mapping skills.
  • Assistance with recognition of new sounds, voices and environments.
  • Tactual interaction (touch).
  • A more robust aural communication, including descriptive explanations of experiences.

Your child’s therapists and pediatrician can formulate a tailored plan to meet their needs.

For example, in speech therapy, your child may prefer tactile and auditory learning, requiring more “hands on” activities and listening to tenor and pitch to communicate, rather than watching for visual cues. You may want to opt for brightly colored toys, items with lights, sounds and other non-visual features. When communicating with your baby or toddler, you might incorporate more touch, and aural communication.

In physical therapy, a child might need assistance to identify the parameters of the room. They might need a little additional help with navigation and attention to stairs, as well as consideration when they’re climbing, aiming and reaching.
Kids in occupational therapy (OT) also require consideration when it comes to low vision therapy. If they miss visual cues during play, they might become frustrated or upset. OT kids might need to work with their therapist on play that helps them be successful without relying on visual skills to complete a task.

It’s important that your child’s therapy plan takes their low vision into consideration and incorporates it as part of their care.

Working with optometrists and ophthalmologists is also key when addressing low vision. Ophthalmologists can test and diagnose the cause of the vision impairment, whether it’s stemming from an underlying health issue, if it’s part of a diagnosis (as in neurological disorders), or if the low vision itself is the root of your child’s developmental delay.

If you suspect you child has low vision, visit your pediatrician first, then ask to be referred to an ophthalmologist. Your pediatrician can guide you through early intervention steps to help you formulate a care plan, especially if low vision is a co-diagnosis.

National & Chicago-Area Resources for
Parents of Children with Low Vision

There are a wide range of additional support services and resources that may be appropriate for your child depending on age and ability. Work with your child’s therapist and pediatrician to identify the activities and resources that can best assist your individual situation.

  • The Chicago Lighthouse – This agency offers a wealth of information and has infant, young child and family specialists. (Here’s the link to their Birth-to-Three Early Intervention) From the website: “The Chicago Lighthouse is a world-renowned social service organization serving the blind, visually impaired, disabled and Veteran communities with comprehensive vision care and support services.”
  • Illinois Association for Parents of Children with Visual Impairments (IPVI) – This Chicago organization provides support, information and services for parents of children with low vision, including those with additional disabilities.
  • The Parent Child Institute at The Illinois School for the Blind and Visually Impaired in Jacksonville, Ill. This institute is recommended by Kathryn and her daughter Abby, mentioned in the story above. Kathryn says, “We had the opportunity to connect with other families, attend lectures on the topic as well as listen to students’ stories. We also learned about the technological advancements (particularly Apple products) that are very user friendly for people with visual impairments.”
  • Cortical Visual Impairment and the Evaluation of Functional Vision by Dr. Christine Roman – This book, as well as the free webcast is considered the “bible” for CVI.
  • Blind Service Association – This volunteer-based Chicago association is dedicated to improving the lives of people living with visual impairments.
  • Ten Ways You Can Help a Family Member or Friend Experiencing Vision Loss – this article from Second Sense (a Chicago organization providing resources for adults with vision loss) offers a number of low vision resources and organizations.
  • Serving Families of Children with Vision or Dual Sensory Loss (from the Early Intervention Training Program at the College of Education at Illinois) – This is a self-paced introduction to concepts and resources. Registration is required, but this online class is open to everyone. From the website: “Originally developed for service coordinators, this learning module is appropriate for any individual working with families of children who are blind, visually impaired, or dual sensory impaired. This online training provides a basic overview of what to be aware of when serving families of children who are blind, visually impaired, or dual sensory impaired. Also reviewed are basic screening methods, types of vision loss, including eligible diagnoses, the early intervention process, and services available.”
  • Scout Information Clearinghouse on Blindness and Visual Impairment – This database contains a huge amount of online resources related to blindness and visual impairment. (Follow this link to skip to the Advice for Families of Young Children with Visual Impairments page.)
  • National Association of Parents of Children with Visual Impairments – from the American Foundation for the Blind website. NAPVI provides information and resources for parents of children with low vision, including those with additional disabilities.
  • Chicago Public Schools (CPS) Student Health Services – Please click the Vision & Hearing button to reveal CPS services and both internal and external resources.

These National & Chicago-area Low Vision Awareness Resources were compiled by our Pediatric Therapy Network (PTN) Therapists:

Tina Copeland, LCSW –and– Erica Berger OTR/L, MOT.

Special thanks to CPS and Abby’s Mom, Kathryn.

Working with a physical, speech, or occupational therapist who works with your child in their home environment can make a huge difference. Your therapist from Pediatric Therapy Network Chicago can help ensure your child is comfortable in their world by working with them in their own, familiar environment.


*Names have been changed to protect the privacy of our patients, parents and partners.

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