Babies rule the lesson plan for PT students at MA

February 07, 2002

Babies rule the lesson plan for PT students at MA

Mont Alto, Pa.


While 4-month-old Sophie stretched out on her fuzzy pink blanket and 12-month-old Isaac raced around the room checking out everyone else's toys, a class of physical therapy students observed the growth and development of the babies.

As part of the annual "Baby Lab" at Penn State Mont Alto, the students in Renee Borromeo's therapeutic exercise class got an up-close look at typical infant development during the first year of life.

Ten babies between the ages of 2 1/2 weeks and 14 months impressed the college students with their abilities to nap, sit up, roll over and walk, depending on their age.


The class offered a unique way for the physical therapy assistant students to learn the stages of infant development without relying on a textbook or video.

The main emphasis of the Baby Lab was on gross motor development skills - walking and crawling - but the students also carefully documented the fine motor development, language and communication and social and behavioral development of the babies.

Students without children of their own, like Kristen Staggs, 19, of Greencastle, Pa., and Rose Hambright, 35, of Littlestown, Pa., said the opportunity to see and compare so many infants at once was insightful.

"There is a 4-month-old starting to grab her feet and attempting to roll over while a 10 1/2-month-old is walking around with support," Hambright said.

Kelly Sheely, of Hanover, Pa., was impressed by the difference two or four months could have on a baby's abilities.

"In the beginning they were all just babies to me," she said.

Lori DeVage, of Hanover, Pa., said even with children of her own she was learning new things about children's motor development.

"This makes me notice more things. I've never seen it from a clinical point before," she said.

While the students rotated around the room taking notes on each baby, Sophie Strickler, 4 months, remained on her pink blanket, sometimes showing off how she can roll to her side and raise her head with some prodding from her mother, Cindy Strickler, of Littlestown.

Nearby, Maria Hopkins, of Hagerstown, could hardly keep 12-month-old Isaac on his blanket. Isaac's been walking for almost two months and he had a blast checking out the other babies and their toys on Wednesday.

"He's seeing a lot of toys he doesn't have at home," Hopkins said.

Borromeo said she began the Baby Lab seven years ago when she had infants of her own.

Now she asks friends, colleagues and former students to bring in their babies for the class.

She said the span in ages at Wednesday's lab was one of the best.

"From newborn to 1 year, they gain so much," she said. "They go from little bundles that can barely lift their heads to walking at the end of a year."

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