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Oaklawn's Pediatric therapy program expands

Nov. 9, 2016

 Growth of therapy staff signals expansion of Oaklawn’s pediatric program

 MARSHALL – About a decade ago, Ashley Widrig was a student focusing on a career in biology and lived with her parents in Marshall.

At the time, Widrig’s experience in Marshall turned out to be brief because her education prompted a move to Chicago. However, Widrig recently returned to Marshall as a pediatric occupational therapist for Oaklawn’s Physical Rehabilitation Services.

“It’s a beautiful town and I’m very excited to be back,” said Widrig, 32, who comes here from three years’ work at the Pediatric Place of Select Medical in LaGrange, Ill.

Widrig will work to integrate Oaklawn’s physical and occupational therapy services that serve children who require customized, specific therapeutic care.

“Our pediatric program has been in operation for about four years and has been a great asset for Oaklawn and the community as a whole,” said Chris Tapscott, who is manager of the rehab unit in the Oaklawn Life Improvement Center at 13697 15-Mile Road.

“As we continue to provide such services as physical, occupational and speech therapy, bringing Ashley into the organization allows us to work with a wider range of pediatric clientele and their families,” he said.

Widrig’s return to Marshall brings her closer to her parents, who now live in the northern part of the state, so her new work here is an excellent fit for her personally as well as professionally, she said.

Widrig grew up in Hillsdale as the youngest of four children, and graduated from high school in Sandusky. She went on to earn a Bachelor of Science degree in biology from Alma College in 2006 and a Master of Science degree in occupational therapy from Grand Valley State University in 2013.

Widrig’s shift toward occupational therapy began while she worked in a microbiology lab in Allegan, where she tested over-the-counter drugs.

“My personality was far too big to do work like that, because I’m naturally drawn more to working directly with people,” she said.

“When I went to a scholastic open house, I came across a program focusing on occupational therapy,” Widrig added. “It seemed so right for me, and it felt as though it was what I’d been looking for my entire life. It completes the person that I am.”

Widrig’s addition to the rehab unit’s staff will permit a significant integration of physical therapy and occupational therapy services, Tapscott said.

“We have physical therapists who do pediatric care and we’ve been developing that program,” Tapscott said. “We wanted to continue that, and integrate Ashley into this program, because she has a broad occupational-therapy base.”

“The goal is to incorporate a collaborative approach to treatment among the therapists, patients, their families, referral sources and other community resources,” he said.

“As we look beyond the success we’ve already achieved, we’re always working to expand and improve our program,” Tapscott said. “For example, four of our physical therapists have received their doctorates in physical therapy, and a fifth is due to attain that certification by the end of this year.”

Widrig has worked with young people ranging from infants up to age 22, focusing on such issues as sensory processing, attention deficits, autism, fine motor deficiency and coordination, body awareness and strength issues.

Sensory processing problems occur from a breakdown in neurological processing of information received through the senses. This causes problems with learning, behavior and appropriate responses to ordinary sensory experiences.

“These are the kids who slip through the cracks and have a little more difficulty at school and no one seems to understand quite why,” she said.

Such therapy assists children who have difficulties with such tasks as sitting, bathing, grooming, tying shoes, holding utensils and even handwriting, she said.

“Ashley has a skill set that approaches that of a pediatric generalist. She’ll be able to address a broader range of issues than we were able to deal with before now,” Tapscott said.

Oaklawn provides individualized treatment and rehabilitation including orthopedic, neurological, pre- and post-surgical, pelvic health and vestibular conditions, as well as  lymphedema, cancer rehabilitation, concussion management and Parkinson’s Disease.

The office of Oaklawn’s Physical Rehabilitation Services is in the Oaklawn Life Improvement Center at 13697 15-Mile Road. For information about Oaklawn’s therapy services in Marshall, call (269) 781-6030. Oaklawn also provides outpatient therapy services in Albion, Olivet and Beadle Lake near Battle Creek.