Laurie Ray, Ph.D., a nationally known expert in school-based physical therapy practice, was the keynote speaker for the event, the fourth that's been held since Sandy Willett took over leadership of the department.
MMI physical therapist Joanie Bergeron, who organized the event with physical therapist Tricia Saxton, said that the lack of pediatric occupational or physical therapy courses offered locally -- and even fewer school-based OT or PT courses -- led to bringing in Dr. Ray, who she called "a passionate presenter who was very engaging and provided useful information, which lead to phenomenal group discussions."
School-based therapists practice under different guidelines than hospital or outpatient-based therapists, Bergeron said.
"The school-based guidelines are always changing. We saw an opportunity to enhance our common knowledge and understanding of school-based therapy in our state."
The conference met MMI's mission to transform lives through outreach, engagement and premier educational programs, Bergeron said.
"We had 56 attendees from 17 different school districts in Nebraska," she said. "Even though we all serve under IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act) and Nebraska Rule 51 (which sets special education program standards), each district interprets the law and the rule differently. It is great to provide an opportunity for therapists to learn how other therapists are practicing. Coming together like this and having discussions allows us to have a more common language and mission."
Reaction to the conference was overwhelmingly positive.
"This conference was really one of the best, most meaningful, conferences I've ever been to," one attendee said.
Bergeron and Saxton said that ideas for future topics for school-based PT may include writing individualized education plans, integrating physical therapy in the classroom, adapted recess or physical education, vestibular/balance issues, and windows of opportunities for motor-skill acquisition.
"We are also looking into more researched-based speakers that share a passion in pediatrics," Bergeron said. "We are excited to jointly host the Academy of Pediatric Physical Therapy Annual Conference in Omaha in November 2020."