Pediatric Therapy Squad helps young patients catch-up

For kids who need help reaching their full potential, the Pediatric Therapy Squad offers the necessary resources.

posted on 2/28/2024 in Features

by Sarah Stortz, Carroll Times Herald, Feb. 28, 2024

Having ten employees working in St. Anthony Regional Hospital, the Pediatric Therapy Squad is composed of licensed therapists who work with infants, children and teenagers.

These services include speech therapy, occupational therapy and physical therapy.

Leah Lechtenberg, a speech language pathologist, works with pediatric patients who have difficulties speaking or using language.

Because some patients may be nonverbal and have increased behaviors, Lechtenberg said they use different strategies to help them communicate their wants and needs.

Jaime Weitl, an occupational therapist, said the team helps kids develop the skills they need to be able to participate in everyday activities.

“For kids, their occupation is play and learning how to do things that’s age appropriate, whether it’s holding their bottle as a baby, feeding themselves, dressing themselves,” Weitl said.

Occupational therapy can help in developing fine motor skills, visual perceptual skills, sensory processing skills and developing age appropriate self-help skills.

Karen Koster, a physical therapist, said they focus on motor skills such as crawling, walking and standing.

Working with patients, Koster said the team tries to use a lot of exercises to promote increased mobility, balance and strength.

“We just work on trying to get them to be more independent with mobility, whether that’s even with getting different devices such as a walker or even a wheelchair,” Koster said. After graduating from physical therapy school, Koster initially thought she never wanted to work with kids, thinking it was intimidating.

However, the same reason ended up being why she worked with them.

“I actually enjoy it more because it is more of a challenge, but it’s not a typical ‘therapy session’ because you’re interacting with them the way a kid wants to be interacted with, you’re having to be creative and flexible and playing with them,” Koster said.

Weitl said she knew she wanted to work with kids at some level. By seeing how the therapy helps patients reach their goals, Weitl said it’s fulfilling.

“To see that we are able to help them do the things that their other typical peers are able to do and see them be happy and flourish with that, it’s kind of self rewarding,” Weitl said.

During high school, Lechtenberg said she had classmates with special needs and was interested in knowing how to communicate with them.

Since working at St. Anthony Regional Hospital, Lechtenberg said it’s rewarding to help kids learn to communicate, specifically those children who use their behaviors as a form of communication.

“If they don’t have words or sign language or communication bytes to communicate, they will use their behaviors,” Lechtenberg said. “Turning those opportunities and teaching the parents communication strategies to use with the children to get them to use positive communication is very rewarding. And parents see the long term effects.

Their services aren’t exclusive to Carroll County, with therapists also helping children from Greene, Crawford and Audubon counties.

Weitl said there’s many small communities that don’t offer physical, occupational and speech therapy for pediatric patients.

“They might have one or the other, but they don’t have all three,” Weitl said.

For families who need more than one discipline, Lechtenberg said they offer complete co-treatments, having therapists work together to see the child. Lechtenberg said they also have monthly meetings for necessary trainings, education and collaboration.

“We do collaborate together as disciplines to serve the child the best that we can that works with the child’s needs as well as with the family’s work schedule,” Lechtenberg said.

For more information, call St. Anthony Rehab Services at 712-794-5000.

Pediatric Therapy Squad

Written by Sara Stortz, Carroll Times Herald, February 28, 2024 


  1. jaime weitl
  2. karen koster
  3. leah lechtenberg
  4. pediatrics
  5. pediatrics therapy squad
  6. rehab services
  7. therapy

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