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Synthesis between Physical and Speech Therapy in HydroWorx Pool Breaks Exciting New Ground

Synthesis between Physical and Speech Therapy in HydroWorx Pool Breaks Exciting New Ground

Typically, speech therapists and physical therapists discuss the patients they have in common; this type of tandem approach is nothing new.  But it’s little rarer for them to work with patients at the exact sameIMG_1708-2 time, especially in a warm water therapy pool.  However, if the experiences of physical therapist, Timothy Williams, and speech therapist, Ambyr Henderson, from Pullman Regional Hospital, Washington, are any indication, working together may be the next leap in helping patients of all ages build their speech abilities while improving their strength and flexibility.

Williams and Henderson’s innovative way of working with a patient in this connected manner stemmed from their work with a young patient recovering from surgery for a benign brain tumor and delays caused by a surgery-related stroke.  The patient, a three-year-old named Jackson, required both physical and speech therapies, but was becoming bored with the exercises on land.  His plateauing served as the springboard for a unique brainstorm: Why not combine the physical therapy and speech therapy sessions in the HydroWorx therapy pool that Pullman Regional Hospital had installed?

The results proved to be tremendous. Not only did Jackson respond to the new modality, but he started making progress again, much to the delight of the therapy professionals, not to mention his mother, Natalie.  Williams and Henderson cleverly devised techniques disguised as therapy pool games to get Jackson to reach for items in the pull, kick his legs and shout out directions and words.Pullmancrop

Jackson is now able to walk independently at times thanks to the boost in his muscle strength and memory.  He’s also talking more frequently in and out of the pool. Williams and Henderson’s approach was so innovative that they applied for the first-ever HydroWorx Healthcare Excellence in Aquatics Award to illustrate their findings.  They were rewarded for their efforts by winning the Award, which was presented to the duo at the Combined Sections Meeting of the American Physical Therapy Association this past February.

As the video of Jackson’s journey discusses, the water has proven to be a significant asset.  Some of the benefits he’s enjoyed as a result of combined speech and physical therapy sessions in the water include:

  • Improvement of motor control.  Jackson is able to move his limbs and fingers with more dexterity out of the pool due to his exercises in the hydrotherapy environment.
  • Improvement of producing words at a higher volume.  Because the pool’s resistance jets create sounds, Jackson must speak over the noise and be able to articulate his utterances clearly.
  • Improvement of the combination of voice with movement. For most humans, this naturally occurs; we basically learn to speak and move at the same time.  Jackson had to relearn how to do these simultaneously through his aquatic and speech therapy sessions.

The future is definitely positive for this toddler who has a habit of making everyone’s day a little brighter.

Check out Pullman Regional Hospital’s video of Jackson and his incredible story below.


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