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Pa. college students learn with the help of babes

March 02, 2006|by BONNIE H. BRECHBILL

MONT ALTO, PA.

Six babies attended a college class Wednesday morning as the main instructors.

Penn State Mont Alto physical therapy instructor Renee Borromeo and occupational therapy instructor Doadi Rockwell invited six mothers and babies to campus so students could observe the various stages of physical development.

"This makes learning the developmental sequence - how humans develop from newborn through the first year- much more real," Borromeo said. "Nobody's falling asleep today. When I lecture ..."

Six babies sat or lay on blankets on the floor, surrounded by toys. Nineteen physical therapy assistant and four occupational therapy assistant students observed the babies' movements, made notes and asked the parents questions.

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"They're looking at motor development in the first 12 months of life," Borromeo said. "The students have had lecture material on what babies are supposed to be doing at certain ages, but this is more fun than a video or a textbook."

Kyersten Zeigler, almost 5 months, was born with a club foot. She wore a succession of casts for eight weeks, starting when she was one week old. She wears orthopedic shoes connected by a bar for 20 hours a day, which holds her feet in the proper position as her bones grow and harden.

While Kyersten can't roll over because of the bar, she is developing normally and seemed to enjoy the attention from the students.

"Her doctor said she may skip crawling and go directly to walking because her abdominal muscles are so strong from lifting her feet along with the shoes and bar," while lying on her back, said her mother, Patty Zeigler.

Zeigler graduated from Mont Alto's PTA program and works with adults at Total Rehab Care at Robinwood in Hagerstown.

Recent PTA graduate Tiffany Crouse also brought her baby to the class.

Madison Crouse, 11 months, was the only baby up on her feet, and she walked around visiting the other babies and sampling their toys. The students observed and made notes on how Madison's shoulders moved when Borromeo sat her on a large therapy ball and rocked her gently.

Amy Horn and several other PTA students observed 4-month-old Kamryn Bittle's grasping reflex and head-holding ability to learn what is normal and abnormal at different stages of development, Horn said.

"We'll be tested on this," she added.

Kamryn was born five weeks early, according to her mother, Heidi Bittle of Littlestown, Pa.

PTA student Anita Blauch held Cole Fetterhoff, 13 weeks, off the blanket at arms length face down to see his Landau reflex. He extended his arms and legs and made swimming motions, a normal reaction.

Both the PTA and COTA are two-year courses. Graduates can work in acute care, outpatient care, nursing homes, with children and in other settings.

Rockwell said OTAs focus on play activities and upper extremity movements with clients and watch how they interact with toys.

"They teach parents what to expect, and how to position the baby to experience the world," she said.

Anyone interested in PTA or COTA education may contact the department at Mont Alto at 717-749-6068.

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