Posted: Friday, September 26, 2014 6:47 pm | Updated: 7:02 pm, Fri Sep 26, 2014.
By Brianne Flemingbfleming@morganton.com
Play Again Therapy, a provider of specialized therapy services for children, is recognizing over 20 years of service at their present location in Morganton as of this month and hopes for many more successful years of helping clients with special needs live a functional and healthy life.
Based on the needs of clients and their families, the therapy practice works with kids to help them develop their speed and efficiency in thinking skills and coordination and motor planning. They also offer education and support for clients and communities through things like parental support groups and connections with area resources, according to an informational pamphlet.
Founder Monika Lesch, who is a registered and licensed occupational therapist, has 37 years of experience in pediatric occupational therapy. Lesch said the clinic has come a long way over the years. When she first started the practice alone in Morganton, she was working with three children and only providing pediatric occupational therapy. There are now four occupational therapists and three speech therapists in the Morganton office. Play Again Therapy originated in Burke County, with Morganton being the first of the three North Carolina clinics established. There also are two other Play Again Therapy clinics — one in Boone, which opened in 2003, and one in Marion that opened in 2009. The Morganton clinic, which is located at 205 S. Sterling St., provides many unique features for children to enjoy while they are there, such as high and low tunnels, mattress and mat-covered floors, swings, trapeze bars, tire tubes and a 27-foot-high climbing gym, according to an information pamphlet. The facility also caters to the challenges faced by children who have Sensory Processing Disorders and neuromotor challenges such as Cerebral Palsy.
“I think what’s unique about Play Again Therapy is the facility,” Lesch said. “It was a dream for me to have a Sensory Integration Therapy clinic, and the environment here is very unique and not duplicated anywhere in western North Carolina.” The practice serves clients aged birth to 21 years old. Some other diagnoses served include Autism, Pervasive Developmental Disorder, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, Bipolar Disorder and multi-handicapped (blind and deaf) disorders. The Morganton office currently serves close to 100 clients, Lesch said.
“In the clinic, because of the environment, we have a lot of variety and novelty,” she said. “We provide intensity and movement under therapeutic guidance, and that is aimed at improving how the central nervous system operates. We also provide intervention for children that are picky eaters and have oral motor challenges.” Helping children with special needs is a remarkable thing to do for a living, Lesch said. “It’s very rewarding,” she said. “I feel like my work gives me meaning and purpose. I think that’s true with most therapists, because you’re in a service profession and you have to have some level of caring and empathy for the disadvantaged.”
Many people still come to the Morganton Play Again Therapy clinic from Hickory and other distances, Lesch said. “It’s been an up and down ride, but it’s mostly been very positive,” she said. “The community has been responsive. We started 20 years ago and we were the only private practice clinic that provided what we provided.” Play Again Therapy has become a part of the community and provides services that are essential to clients in a unique environment, Lesch said.
“I have a strong desire for the practice to continue beyond my years and to be involved because I think it’s an asset to the community,” she said. “I think we play a key role in helping parents understand how to interact and help their special needs child grow and develop and realize their maximum potential.
In the coming years, Lesch said she hopes they will add a swimming pool and aquatic therapy services. She also wishes to work more closely with the public school system on educating the public about the importance of nutrition. “If you have a child with challenges, their brain needs certain types of nutrition to grow and prosper,” she said. “There’s enough science and knowledge out there to know that a specific nutrition regiment would be helpful and would improve a child’s ability to grow and perform.” Lesch said that the therapists aim to help the children get to a place where they can do every day activities on their own and in a timely manner.
“One of the cornerstones of being a pediatric occupational therapist is to facilitate a child’s ability to function in everyday life and acquire functional life skills, such as how to dress and organize themselves and focus and complete a task in a timely manner,” she said. “We also do that by providing activities that facilitate the nervous system to grow and develop in ways that it hasn’t (yet), and we can do that with a child regardless of their diagnosis. That’s the overall reaching goal that we strive for.”
After 20 years of serving clients in Burke County, she hopes to see the practice continue to develop and have many more successful years, Lesch said. “(We hope for) 20-plus more years and to be a support to family systems,” she said.
For more information on Play Again Therapy and their services, call 828-438-8833.