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At The Children’s Institute, Parents Are Partners and Therapy is Individualized
By Nancy Kennedy

Kathy Pruett brings a wealth of capabilities to her position as a board-certified Pediatric Physical Therapy Clinical Specialist at The Children’s Institute of Pittsburgh. She is a dedicated, highly trained, and thoroughly credentialed healthcare professional with years of experience. She has a master’s in physical therapy from the University of Pittsburgh plus a second advanced degree in pediatric therapy from the University of Oklahoma. To stay at the cutting edge of her profession, she constantly advances her education, as new technologies, science and approaches to pediatric physical therapy and rehabilitation emerge. She is a member of an outstanding multidisciplinary team and a dynamic leader who mentors young professionals and models excellence in family-centered pediatric healthcare.

Beyond all of that, Kathy has an exceptional perspective on the experiences of the children and families she serves: she is also the mother of a child with special needs. Her son Matthew, age 17, was diagnosed with autism at the age of six and he is doing well, attending Bethel Park High School as a senior. Kathy says that her life experience with her son informs her work, making her especially sensitive to the emotional aspects of parenting a special needs child and giving her a rare and valuable understanding of the realities that this entails. “When I was working as a P.T. before I was a mother, I sometimes had unrealistic expectations of parents,” she recalls. “I would send them home with a home care plan that they could not possibly carry out. I would give them ten exercises to do, not understanding that I was overwhelming them. When I became a mother, and I understood what mothers actually do, I learned to be realistic. Now I adapt the home care plan to the real situation, modifying it to what can actually be accomplished. It’s essential to adapt the plan to the family’s daily routines, and to do that, you have to know them and their individual needs and desires.”

Kathy is a member of The Children’s Institute’s Autism Training Team, educating new staff on proven approaches to serving children with autism and their families. She says that although it is difficult for families to hear a diagnosis of autism, a diagnosis can be viewed as a password. “It’s a password in the sense that it allows you to access services which can help. Kids with autism need individualized treatment, so you’re trying to find a key, a password that will help you find a way to better understand your child. They see the world differently – we have to know this and appreciate it. I cannot force my child into my mold.”

Individualization is a key component of The Children’s Institute’s approach to its patients, who range in age from newborns to age 21. “Therapy that is individualized to meet the unique needs of each child leads to better outcomes,” she explains. “Our care is personalized. The parents are critical to this, because they know the child best. No one knows a child the way the parent does – they are the true experts and they make the best advocates.”

According to Wendy Pardee, President and Chief Executive Officer at The Children’s Institute, the organization’s philosophy of “whole child” care is the key to the outstanding outcomes it regularly achieves. “Our entire staff ascribes to this holistic approach. We partner with each family and learn from them about their unique child so that we can provide the best possible support and services to them. Kathy Pruett, through sharing her lived experience, offers tremendous insight that enables our team to be more responsive to the needs of parents.”

The Children’s Institute has five convenient locations offering outpatient therapy services in Squirrel Hill, Bridgeville, Wexford, Pleasant Hills and Irwin, all offering occupational therapy, speech language therapy, nutrition and more. Physical therapy services include strengthening and conditioning exercise; developing improved motor skills; assessing assistive equipment needs; improving recreational skills; neuromuscular education and many others. In addition, the physical therapy department offers chronic pain management, orthotics and casting, interactive metronome, sports clinics and other services.

Kathy Pruett, who works at the Bridgeville location, wants parents to know that they are regarded as full-fledged members of the treatment team at The Children’s Institute. “All of the disciplines here work collaboratively, for your child. We hold full team meetings and we want you to be there, and to attend your child’s therapy sessions. We keep you informed and we can utilize teleconferences and telechats if needed.”

Established in 1902, The Children’s Institute of Pittsburgh is an independent, nonprofit, licensed organization whose mission is to heal, to teach, to empower, and to amaze. Its outpatient pediatric rehabilitation and therapy programs are nationally-recognized. The Day School is an approved private school serving nearly 200 students from more than 60 school districts. Through Project STAR, The Children’s Institute offers a wide array of family-centered adoption, foster care, and child and family services. Visit www.amazingkids.org or call (412) 420-2400 to learn more.

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