Reach for the Top now has 15 specialty therapies to choose from
Reach for the Top, a non-profit clinic in Dover, New Hampshire, provides therapeutic services to children with exceptional needs. Under new leadership since 2021, the clinic went from offering 7 specialized therapies to 15, all with family-centeredness at the heart of what they do, but now using a trauma-informed and neurodivergent affirming foundation as well. In this family-centered clinic, which is one of the things that sets it apart from others in the Dover area, families can choose and combine more common approaches with innovative specialty services to develop a custom and individualized plan to supporting their child.
What types of therapy are provided?
Occupational therapy helps children better navigate their environments through sensory experiences and play-based activities. Once children feel comfortable with their bodies, they are able to interact effectively with their peers and community, build friendships, play, and meet their own self-care needs, being able to gain independence is caring for themselves during daily routines, from feeding themselves, to dressing, bathing, hygiene, sleep, and more. Developing a sense of mastery while gaining independence in self-care areas is crucial to developing their executive function skills and in developing their self-esteem.
Speech therapy encourages communication and language development to help children express themselves to their fullest potential and connect with their family, friends, and others in their community. Speech and language therapists teach children the tools to effectively interact with others, whether it be through verbal language, sign language, pictures, written language, technology or a combination of several. This allows them to build relationships, communicate their needs, and gain independence, creating a future of success.
One of more commonly known types of therapy is physical therapy, where therapists help infants, children, and teens develop their gross motor skills, i.e., crawling, walking, running, jumping, climbing, working on strength, posture, endurance, speed/efficiency with motor tasks, coordination, and more, in order to be able to navigate their environment, play, and participate in their everyday routine activities that are important to them and their family.
What specialty therapies and services does Reach provide?
1. Hippotherapy Hippotherapy is the use of a horse’s movement to build strength, improve coordination, and so much more. This specialty approach to therapy can be beneficial for children with neurological conditions, as it facilitates the improvement of musculoskeletal system alignment and can also decrease pain and/or help children use their body more effectively during daily tasks. It also provides tons of proprioceptive and vestibular sensory input to children that seek movement. Being in the barn and with the horse helps children work on sequencing and following directions, safety concepts, and animals have a regulating therapeutic benefit of their own. The children work on fine motor, gross motor, and vision-based skills at the barn, just like they would at the clinic. We have an excellent relationship with a local farm, have more therapists trained in this therapeutic tool, and have been able to expand this service to more families this year!
2. Brace clinic For children in need of orthotics, hand, ankle, leg braces, or other medical supportive devices, Reach for the Top runs a brace clinic in partnership with an Orthotist Prosthetist focusing on being fitted for the right equipment to support mobility, posture, decreased pain, and much more, to help children with physical challenges fully participate across environments with the tailored support they may need.
3. Infant Torticollis and Plagiocephaly Program Torticollis is when infants have head tilt and difficulty turning their necks, and plagiocephaly is when the back and/or the side of a baby’s head is flattened. Reach for the Top offers a specialized therapy program to address these conditions, which are highly treatable through therapy, a home program with focus on stretching through play, positioning, and sometimes corrective helmets, which Reach can have assessed at the clinic by a specialist.
4. Therapeutic Listening & Quickshifts Therapeutic listening is a sound-based therapy developed to support children and teens who experience difficulties with sensory processing challenges. It provides stimulation to the auditory system through the use of specifically created music that stimulates the nervous system and the areas of the brain, which can have dramatic effects on the child and is a one of the unique supplemental specialty therapies provided.
5. Sensory Garden Through generous donations from Lowes and in collaboration with the Dover local library, Reach therapists and children have been able to put in and continue to cultivate a sensory garden, that has flowers chosen to activate different parts of the sensory system, and components to help children use their bodies, follow directions, and connect with nature. Our children, families, and therapists, love to focus on getting outside, jumping, climbing, digging, and using their senses to feel connected to themselves, others, and the Earth.
6. Feeding therapy Feeding therapy supports parents and their children to ensure health, wellness, and participation in family meals. Some feeding and swallowing concerns are addressed in speech therapy and some are addressed in occupational therapy, regardless feeding therapy focuses on creating positive eating and drinking experiences to improve the child’s overall mealtime routine and create positive associations with food. At Reach for the Top, our feeding therapists have some of the top training available, including in the SOS approach, food chaining, the Get Permission Approach, infant latch and transition to foods, transitioning from tube feeds to oral feeds, post-tie release, and the SOFFI protocol.
7. Teletherapy Services During the COVID-19 pandemic, Reach was able to get additional training, computers, and develop a teletherapy program where therapists are continuously supported in providing best-practice virtual occupational, physical, and speech therapies, to children and families within their home to help adapt to the family’s needs, continue care during mild illness, and overcome transportation challenges, including during bad weather.
8. Aquatic therapy Reach’s new Aquatic therapy program is a sensory-enriched approach to Occupational, Physical, and Speech therapies, that focuses on using the properties of the water, to provide input to the brain and body to help with regulation, participation, strengthening muscles and developing motor skills, and speech and language development, all through play. We find so many of our children find a real connection to the world through water and can learn some skills faster than on land. We partnered with a new facility this year and have had the ability to provide more appointment times with more space and fewer costs to family, a real win-win!
9. Neurodiversity and Trauma Parent Support Groups & Networking Reach developed a new parent support group program this year, where during thematic social groups for neurodiverse children and those impacted by trauma, the parents were able to connect in person, or via electronics, connecting them to other parents that are navigating challenges, systems, and therapies as they try to find the path that works best for their family.
10. Thematic Social Groups Reach developed structured social groups where children that struggle with making friends and connecting with others were able to come to group with their 1:1 therapist and make those connections more naturally through play and not through drills. The children have weekly themes with fun games, art projects, motor challenges, and snacks to develop those skills with the support of their therapist in the context of play with friends. This approach aligns with a neurodiverse approach where the child is supported, while their unique traits are celebrated, not eliminated.
11. Trauma responsive child-led therapy While all the therapies available at Reach for the Top are performed through a trauma informed lens, services offered also include specific trauma responsive therapies with DIR/ATTAcH/SAFE PLACE trained therapists that focus on supporting children and families that have endured adverse childhood experiences and need collaborative care, with focus on safety, attachment, sensory challenges secondary to trauma, and considers trauma precautions, as they focus on participating in meaningful and necessary routines at home. Reach also commits to an ongoing trauma education and consultative mentorship with a professor from Northern Arizona University to further our skills in this area.
12. New Life Skills Room Thanks to a donation from Lonza Biologics, Reach was able to turn their feeding room into a comprehensive life skills space with a countertop and the necessary supplies to prepare simple meals; a cash register and shopping games to practice many necessary skills; a letter writing mail station to work on writing, communication and bill paying; a laundry washing and drying station; and other fun tools to help bridge the gaps and prepare children for chores and early adulthood through practice and play.
13. New STEM & Nature Nook Space Thanks to a donation from JPAC, Reach was able to create a new space in the clinic where STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) concepts come alive with hands-on building and learning toys and activity kits, with problem solving science experiments that develop a child’s thinking skills and an area with all natural materials that can be weighed and categorized, used to make crafts, be used in imaginary play, as part of sensory bins, and for math concepts. Enriching children’s lives with natural materials that can be found at home and outside, and with fun ways to learn skills that will lead to a lifetime of problem solving.
14. Animal Assisted Therapy Reach is in the process of getting a certified therapy dog for the clinic. Adding an animal to therapy uses the power of the human-animal bond to help children feel more relaxed in sessions, to work on social, communication, and regulation skills.
15. AAC Evaluations for Devices In 2023 we plan to start monthly AAC Clinics to allow our therapists the necessary time to evaluate, analyze and interpret, and write up their findings to help more children gain access to their devices in quicker time. Supporting our children, families, and staff in making this happen, so that children with communication challenges can use other strengths to find a way to communicate where they feel confident, successful, and get their needs met.
How do I know what type of therapy my child needs?
Choosing a type of therapy that will follow your child’s development is something you don’t have to navigate alone. At Reach for the Top, families are invited to be part of the team, starting with the initial intake and then the first visit – an evaluation where the therapist will ask questions to determine what concerns the family has, how it is impacting the child’s daily life, as well as strengths and interests the child has.
Skilled observation by a therapist then determines what factors may be impacting the child’s ability to participate in necessary tasks, and together with the parents, or caregivers, they co-create meaningful goals that are within the clinic’s scope of practice and are meaningful and necessary to the child and family. Health insurance coverage is also taken into account at this stage of the evaluation, so that families can make informed choices.
The therapeutic team at Reach for the Top is always available to answer questions and provide insight into what therapy might look like. The goal is that every family feels like they gain a better understanding of their child’s needs as they relate to the child’s overall development and co-create a plan to help their child become successful, in a respectful, holistic, connected, and playful way that honors their strengths, interests, and values.