Creating ‘I-can-do attitudes’

Gritman physical therapist Lori Mages discusses the Enabling Explorers with disABILITY program


Gritman physical therapist Lori Mages enjoys time with a patient.

We recently took a moment to visit with Lori Mages, one of our physical therapists at Gritman’s Therapy Solutions, about the Enabling Explorers with disABILITY program. Lori is a Pediatric Certified Specialist and is board certified in Pediatric Physical Therapy by the American Board of Physical Therapy Specialties.

How did the program come about?

Enabling Explorers with disABILITY started as an effort to provide healthy lifestyle recreational options for children/youth with various disabilities. Parents had, during physical therapy appointments, asked about typical childhood activities – “Can my child ride a bike?” This program just evolved from a parents-therapists collaboration in exploring what their children could do with some support.

It started with a few kids on adapted tricycles and grew with the questions parents would ask, “Could my child (fill in the blank)?” The need was apparent as parents were asking for resources. I knew of great programming locally but not with the necessary support some children require trying new activities that in one way or another are difficult, scary or just unfamiliar to them.

The hope is that engaging in this program that children attain a level of comfort with the activity and be able to continue recreating with their family and friends confidently. When movement is difficult or scary, as in many cases for children with disability, risk of sedentary lifestyles and the subsequent co-morbities increase. Creating safe, supported movement opportunities that are enjoyable both physically and socially is what Enabling Explorers with disABILITY aims to do.

How does the program help the children and the families involved?

I have many goals for Enabling Explorers with disABILITY, with the first being to provide supported healthy lifestyle recreational opportunities for children and youth with disability and their families. The program encourages social interactions with peers, siblings and adult volunteers. It also encourages engagement with the community and community awareness through partnering with local businesses for events. It creates an “I-can-do” attitude for the children and their families.

What’s your favorite part of the program?

My favorite part of the program is seeing a child have success and the confidence and pride that beams from him or her. I see authentic joy! That is why I continue – authentic joy. I see and have heard some of the stories of how this program has impacted families. That is what matters.

How can others help support the program?

At this time any monetary donation can be directed to the Gritman Foundation with “Enabling Explorers with disABILITY” as the designated program. Those funds go toward registration fees for families whose participation would be limited due to financial difficulties and toward future development of the program.

Volunteers are key in the success of this program. I welcome any volunteer who has a heart for working with children or youth and who own a pair of running shoes or hiking shoes. Volunteers would need to contact Gritman Volunteer Services and mention Enabling Explorers with disABILITY program and complete the requirement to be a community volunteer.