Best Life: Learning With Marlie: When play becomes progress

Best Life:  Learning With Marlie: When play becomes progress
Best Life: Learning With Marlie: When play becomes progress
Published: Oct. 30, 2023 at 7:11 AM CDT
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ORLANDO, Fla. (Ivanhoe Newswire) - Playing—it’s a rite of passage for children, but not all children get to enjoy a playground, birthday party, or recess.

Kids born with complex disabilities like cerebral palsy or down syndrome are often left out or their disability makes them unable to participate. Ivanhoe has the details on a new program making a difference.

Like every child, 4-year-old Marlie Ellison loves to play, but, “Marlie has seizures every day.” said Damianna Quinones, Marlie’s mom.

Marlie was born a micro-preemie. Damianna says, “She was only a pound and a half.”

Diagnosed with cerebral palsy, Marlie goes to therapy nine times a week. But one therapy is different from all the rest.

Marlie is part of an innovative program that uses play to help develop communication and motor skills.

“What we know is that all children have a desire to play, but they need to access that play differently,” said Jennifer Tucker, PT, DPT, PhD, Board Certified Clinical Specialist in Pediatric Physical Therapist at the University of Central Florida.

Pediatric Physical Therapists and Speech Therapists work together to help children with complex conditions reach their full potential.

“So as my colleague is working on positioning and seating and mobility and I’m working on communication, the child is getting the benefit of all of those kinds of approaches at once, which is the way that development occurs,” Julie Feuerstein, PhD, CCC-SLP, Pediatric Speech Pathologist at the University of Central Florida.

Helping children like Marlie express themselves.

“Marlie’s really good at using her facial expressions, her body movements, her gestures to communicate with her environment and with the people and her peers.” Says Julie Feuerstein, Ph.D.

“I think what we’ve seen with her is really increased engagement with her peers, increased engagement with us.”

“It’s hard to find moments where I can see, oh, Marlie actually enjoys that, but I do see that here,” said Jennifer Tucker, Ph.D.

Seeing progress through play.

The Play Therapy at UCF tries to find multiple ways for children with complex conditions to learn to communicate.

That can be with their eyes, through utilizing buttons and switches or just through their smile.

Each child is different, but once a child finds a way to communicate, they believe it’s the first step to really giving that child control and the ability to engage with others.

Contributors to this news report include: Marsha Lewis, Producer; Roque Correa, Videographer and Editor.

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