Corinne Pettit delivered all three of her children prematurely, but noticed delays early with her youngest, Cora, who was delivered at 31 weeks gestation and remained in the neonatal intensive care unit for four weeks.
She and her husband, Justin, began seeking early intervention services locally for Cora when she was 7-months-old. Shortly thereafter, Pettit began researching alternative therapies, such as Cuevas Medek Exercise and intensive therapy, and traveling to other neighboring cities for help.
That's when they saw Cora's body and life change drastically.
"We started her at about 13-months-old for her first intensive and at that point she had no truck control, no crawling," Pettit said. Once she started doing intensive therapy, "We started to see a lot more movement, rolling, a lot more trunk control. She's now crawling, she's learning how to use her walker."
Cora was diagnosed at 20-months-old with cerebral palsy. Once a diagnosis was established, Pettit made it her goal to bring the therapies that have helped her daughter here to Kern County. Today, LEAP Pediatric Physical Therapy, which opened in January, hopes to change as many children's lives as possible.
Children with neurological or rare genetic disorders participate in a three-week program ranging in hours per day, intensity and therapies. A number of approaches are utilized at LEAP, including Cuevas Medek Exercises, physical therapy and speech therapy.
Cuevas Medek Exercises are a pediatric therapy approach created by Ramón Cuevas in 1972 for children with developmental delay caused by a known or unknown non-degenerative syndrome impacting the central nervous system, according to the LEAP website. Cuevas wanted to create a method of exercises that provokes the automatic postural responses.
Specific CME characteristics include provoking the appearance of absent motor functions and automatic responses of functional - postural motor control; exposing a child to the influence of gravity; promoting the use of distal support rather than hand-to-hand contact; and stretching.
While therapy sessions vary from child-to-child, Amanda Rohkohl, physical therapist and co-owner, works with parents to establish what a child's goals are and how to best meet them.
"I don't treat a diagnosis, I just treat what I see is delayed in gross motor abilities," explained Rohkohl. "I’m looking at what they can’t do. If they can't army crawl, I’m going to show them the motor planning. Do they not have core strength or extremity strength? You’re going to do exercises to help that."
LEAP also offers therapy sessions for families focusing on communication areas such as early intervention, pediatric sign language, oral-motor, articulation, aphasia, dysarthria, apraxia, fluency (stuttering), language, autism spectrum disorders, auditory processing and pragmatic language.
Speech language pathologist and co-owner Carolyn Maxwell shared several families want their children to be able to express themselves without getting frustrated or to say common first words such as "mama." With the number of children she has worked with so far, many parents come back each week and express how much more vocal their children are at home.
"When you’re working with students at schools, it’s 30 minutes twice a week if you’re lucky," Maxwell explained. "Here I can work with them for an hour, five days a week, and really build their language and focus on that."
She builds on limited vocabulary or helps establish it, incorporates sign language to help children who are unable to talk and even builds on sounds. For example, if they can say the letter "m," she works with them to say the words "more," "mama" and "milk."
So far, families who have come to LEAP have seen their children make steady progress. Cyle and Elyse Bakker, from Tulare, have completed one full three-week session with their son, Calvin, 1 1/2-years-old, and noticed his "personality came out" and he was able to balance better when standing.
"We're ready to come back," Cyle Bakker said.
Hearing those stories, and seeing how intensive therapy helps her own child, makes Pettit excited to serve as many families as possible.
"I was the mom with the dream and wanted to share this intense model of therapy with so many other kids," she said. "I know it works, I've seen it with my own daughter. It's not just a three-week one-time fix it, it's something that you're going to have to do and work on, but the results are amazing."
To learn more about LEAP, visit https://www.leappedtherapy.com/