The Children's Institute Blog

Celebrating National OT Month: Ryan's Story

Posted: Apr 06, 2017 by The Children's Institute

Ryan Morrow’s been doing his homework.

The Connellsville, Pa.-area seventh-grader has made tremendous progress since coming to The Children’s Institute three years ago, after surgeons removed a brain tumor when medication failed to control seizures he was experiencing.

“When he started out, he could hardly do anything and his right arm had to be tied to the walker,” said Nancy, his grandmother, as she watched Ryan exercise both arms last month on a cycling machine. “Now, he plays ball in the Pony League. He’s come so far.”

“He’s our hardest worker,” said Kristin Bowman, who has worked with Ryan for two of her 12 years as an Occupational Therapist, six of them at The Children’s Institute. “He does whatever you ask him to. You could ask him to stand on his head; he’d say ‘OK.’ I’ve never heard him say ‘No.’”

“That’s why he really is our star pupil – he always gives 110 percent.”

Ryan is just one of the patients we’re profiling this month as we celebrate National Occupational Therapy Month and the centennial anniversary of the profession’s formal founding.

The data doesn’t lie. Recently, Ryan, now 13, participated in a five-week Constrain Induced Movement Therapy recently where his dominant left hand was put in cast to build strength and motor skills on his right side. Before the therapy, he could place two pegs of nine in a hole-and-peg test. After? All of them.

Ryan made an average improvement of 22 percent in overall strength with his right upper extremity and a 26 percent increase in his right grip strength, which have assisted him with daily living activities, Kristin said. These included opening a bag of chips on his own and assisting with kitchen chores like putting away dishes.

During a recent visit to The Children’s Institute, he worked on motor planning and motor coordination by using a giant, therapeutic rubber band to fling rubber chickens across the gym. (Kristin named each chicken first, of course.) Then, he played Whack-A-Mole and a patterned-dice game dubbed Doodledice to work on strength in his right wrist and his ability to grasp objects.

“His dexterity really came back,” Kristin said. “Now, we just have to work on keeping that dexterity up.”

Ryan’s homework this week: More wrist exercises and working to pick dimes out of putty with his right hand. Kristin said it’s very clear that Ryan’s been working at home.

For his part, Ryan is modest about his progress but warms up with a careful smile on his slender frame when you talk about his hobbies – namely, XBox video games (which he plays one-handed – for now, Kristen says) and baseball (which he’s been playing since he was six).

“They asked when he started here, ‘What’s the one thing you’d like to work toward here?’ He said he wanted to play ball,” Nancy said.

Though he still will require therapy after baseball season this spring and summer, Ryan said he has just two words to share about the people and place that helped achieve the goal of playing on the baseball diamond again.

“Thumbs up.”


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