The Children's Institute Blog

Celebrating National OT Month: Thierry's Story

Posted: Apr 28, 2017 by The Children's Institute

When Thierry Eubanks tried to focus too hard – on homework, maybe, or putting up her hair in a ponytail – things went haywire.

“I was ready to explode in a total hyperspace stage,” the 10-year-old Pittsburgh girl recalled.

Then, The Children’s Institute introduced her to the Interactive Metronome. A fully customizable software interface that arrived at our Squirrel Hill offices in 2015, the IM, for short, tackles motor coordination, executive functioning, problem solving, organization and attention. Thierry underwent a 16-session program with the equipment that ended in March.

“It’s been so wonderful; I was afraid to stop,” laughed her mother, Rochelle, as Thierry watched a video screen filled with jogging sandwiches and clapped rhythmically to the IM’s steady pulse-beat. “I saw the impact when she was getting ready for school or packing a bag to go somewhere. She was doing that on her own and remembering everything she needed!”

She also learned to tie her shoes and – yes – put up her hair in a ponytail, her mom said.

Occupational therapist Blythe Westendorf’s not surprised. She’s seen kids with ADHD, autism, brain injuries, and progressive genetic disorders make great gains using the IM. She even is treating a patient who wants to work on their coordination so they can get better at skeeball.

“It’s 100 percent individualized by the patients,” said Blythe, who noted the 20-plus gaming options can be altered by pace, length and tempo, among other qualifiers. “It provides a ton of feedback, too. It’s giving you feedback every second so, if you’re doing a 60-minute session, that’s an incredible amount of feedback.”

Thierry put that to the test, watching as her pressing of an oversized switch lit up numbers indicating her speed in red, yellow and green.
“This will tell you if you’re going too fast or if you’re going too slow,” Blythe said. “It’s a complicated program but Thierry’s an example of a kid who does incredibly with it.”

“It’s really easy once you get used to it,” chimed in Thierry. As a fifth-grader at Carlow Campus School, that’s a good thing.

“She’s at the point where she’s going to have to maintain a locker and she has to get to a point where she can do that on her own, without Mom hanging over her,” Blythe said.

Rochelle, for her part, is thrilled with the progress and recommends parents with similar concerns – “It’s like, ‘Every single day we do this, why can’t you?’” as she put it – try it out. Blythe said she’s looking to fill open spots in late summer and fall.

“I really didn’t know what to expect but I wanted to try anything,” Rochelle said. “This turned out to be really a great fit for helping her to meet her goals and our goals for her.”

The Children’s Institute has twice received funding for an interactive metronome. In 2014, we received $7,500 from the Bernita Buncher Grandchildrens' Fund of The Pittsburgh Foundation and, in 2015, we received $7,500 from the Jack Buncher Foundation. We are grateful to our donors for enabling us to provide this important therapy.

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