Jacob’s Ladder and Starlight Infuse Fun into Therapy

Creative rehabilitation activities benefit children needing physical therapy.

July 7, 2016


At first glance. the new playroom Jacob’s Ladder Pediatric Rehabilitation Center looks like a place where kids can go to play and just have fun. But for the Chesterton, Indiana center, the slides, climbing wall, trampoline and pirate ship – among many other activities – are part of a unique indoor therapy program.

Funded by the 2015 Northwestern University Dance Marathon (NUDM) that raised more than $1 million for fund multiple similar renovations and other community projects in the Chicago area, the therapy room is an outlet for kids who are undergoing outpatient physical therapy and improving fine motor skills to relearn daily activities.

Jacob’s Ladder was selected because they are expanding and growing their therapy room and facility. Thanks to the NUDM grant, the 18-year-old nonprofit center was able to move to a bigger location so they could serve more children. This is crucial because being placed on long therapy waiting lists can be detrimental to a child’s health and progress.

The brightly-colored apparatus allows patients to feel like they’re playing, not just doing therapy. For example, a climbing wall – similar to those built at fitness centers – provides a fun way for patients to build lateral, or side-to-side, strength. The trampoline and the pirate ship’s steps and ladders help build endurance.

While the therapy room might center on children with disabilities, muscle tone issues, Down’s syndrome, spinal injuries and more, it is not just for those needing physical therapy. Children visiting the rehab center for other treatment, such as speech therapy, are able to play in the therapy room as a reward for great sessions.

There are sensory rooms for children on the autism spectrum to help them become calm and centered and prepare for a productive session. One room boasts a swing that is a large stuffed animal-like horse hanging from the ceiling that the kids can swing on while working with their therapist.

Jacobs Ladder is also boasting a new state-of-the-art VGo robot that allows children to attend therapy or school while they're hospital or home bound. The robot was funded through a grant by Astellas USA Foundation.

One way the center plans on using the robot is to communicate with the Spanish speaking population.

"Our translators are all volunteers so it takes them time to drive to the center for patient appointments to translate. Now, we can allow them to log into the VGo and we can have the VGo, the child and the therapist all in the treatment room together,” said Jacob’s Ladder Director of Development, Candace Arvin during an interview with ValpoLife.com.

The center's new location and larger therapy room are already getting high marks from its nearly 600 patients and their parents.

Announcing the center's new location last April, Jacob’s Ladder Executive Director and founder Mariann Frigo thanked Starlight for making the grant possible, saying “Their support has allowed us to build an indoor playground and therapy gym including a ball pit, climbing wall, trampoline, pirate ship, and much more to make hard work fun for our pediatric patients. The new equipment is vital to helping our therapists encourage each child’s growth based on their individual needs.”

We’re thrilled more children will be served through the Jacob’s Ladder indoor therapy room year round!

Meet Taheem

Born in Philadelphia on December 25, 2010, little Taheem is a Christmas miracle. As a toddler, he struggled to sit up correctly on his own and his mom, Gloria, knew something was wrong. Doctors soon diagnosed Taheem with torticollis, a twisting of the neck that occurs before or during childbirth which the American Academy of Pediatrics estimates affects 1 in every 300 children born.

Taheem showed improvement after receiving treatment for the condition which the American Academy of Pediatrics estimates affects 1 in every 300 children born, but he still wasn’t able to walk. In and out of various hospital with leg infections, he was later diagnosed with cerebral palsy, as well. After his family moved from Philadelphia to Atlanta, Georgia, Taheem began receiving treatment at the local Shriners hospital. His walking has improved significantly, but he still falls from time to time, so he attends a special needs class for therapy.

But nothing gets Taheem down, and his smile and bright spirit light up any room. “Taheem just celebrated his 5th birthday, and what a special Christmas it was,” says Gloria.


Your donation to Starlight can help improve the quality of life and health for kids and families like Taheem and Gloria. Donate today.


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