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Michaelis serves Sunflower children, families with physical therapy
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Larissa Michaelis interacts with Caleb. Michaelis is the new physical therapist at Sunflowers Early Education Center. - photo by COURTESY PHOTO

               When Larissa Michaelis was studying to be a physical therapist, she wanted to serve children with developmental disabilities and delays. She was able to do this for six years before moving back to Great Bend and working in other settings for the past several years.

Now Michaelis, who grew up in Great Bend, has the opportunity to do what she loves as the new physical therapist at Sunflower’s Early Education Center (EEC).

“I have been working in outpatient and inpatient settings for the past eight years,” Michaelis said. “This opportunity at Sunflower arose and I couldn’t be more pleased.”

Michaelis provides physical therapy evaluations and interventions for children referred to the EEC by hospitals, physicians and parents. Its services are free to families.

All services are provided in the child’s home or other natural environment, such as a daycare center.

“Pediatric physical therapy is so rewarding, especially because it empowers parents by giving them the tools that will greatly impact their child’s life,” Michaelis said. “Having a child prematurely or with a pre- or post-natal diagnosis at birth can be unsettling and we are here to help parents ease into their new roles.

“It is so gratifying to see a child learning new skills that previously may have been considered impossible,” Michaelis added. “It is equally gratifying to become like part of the family.”

Michaelis works in conjunction with early childhood special education teachers and speech therapists on the EEC staff to ensure all family concerns are addressed. The team meets weekly to collaborate and learn from one another.

A few examples of why a child needs physical therapy include: a general developmental delay in motor skills; premature birth; and musculo-skeletal concerns such as torticollis, which is an asymmetrical head or neck position.

“With these and other conditions, early intervention has the potential to make a huge impact on a child’s development,” Michaelis noted. “The sooner concerns are addressed, the better the outcome can be.

“In addition, providing education to families about their child’s development can decrease concerns during early childhood and the school years,” she elaborated. “Starting early helps parents become more comfortable advocating for their child today and in the future.”

Michaelis earned her undergraduate degree from the University of Kansas and master’s in physical therapy at Texas Woman’s University-Houston.

She was a pediatric physical therapist at the Britain Center in Shawnee Mission for six years and spent more than eight years in other settings in Barton County. Michaelis and her husband have three children, and her parents and other family members live here.

Sunflower’s EEC is part of the tiny-k network in Kansas that provides early intervention services for infants and toddlers at no cost to families. Its service area includes Barton, Pawnee, Rice, Rush and Stafford counties.