Benefis Outdoor Pediatric Therapies Space Sets up Children for Success

Holding one therapist’s hands as another blew bubbles his direction, Theo, 4, took wobbly steps up a knoll in the innovative outdoor pediatrics therapy space in Benefis’ new Women’s and Children’s Center.

The bubbles are a reward for Theo’s labor and to distract him from noticing he’s balance and strength training.

“The kids love it,” physical therapist Morgan Talley said. “It’s like a playground for them, and it doesn’t feel like they’re working. Going outside is a huge motivator.” 

Morgan uses the balance beam, stumps, and hill to help children practice balance and build strength. She has them running and riding bikes and trikes around on the outdoor track.

Another favorite activity in the space is moving water around the water table, and the wheelchair swing is a great opportunity for movement. 

“They don’t understand exercise, and they don’t want to do it,” she said. “It’s better to find out what they already want to do and work around that.”

Taking a child into the outside space for language building can include active play modeling words, putting children in situations where they need to ask for more pushes on the swing set, or repetition of sounds as they push a ball up the hill, added Anna Stremcha, a speech-language pathologist. 

pediatric therapies benefis great falls

Theo’s mom, Kim Patton, brings him several times a week for occupational, physical, and speech therapies, and her daughter, Eleanor, not yet 2, also has sessions. Having all their therapists plus their pediatrician in one building has been a tremendous improvement over having appointments all over town before the center’s opening in December 2021.

The 48,000-square-foot, three-story outpatient center along 10th Avenue South has changed the way women and children access healthcare in this community, providing improved convenience for busy families and better provider collaboration.

At the center, pediatric occupational, speech, and physical therapy patients also develop skills in a gym, a model kitchen, and a model bathroom. There is room for socialization and private sessions depending on their needs and personalities.

The Women's and Children's Center also is home to screening mammography and a lab, general outpatient pediatric care, pediatric endocrinology, and pediatric psychiatry and neurophysiology, OB/GYN care, women’s wellness, fertility care, childbirth education, lactation support, and more.

The state-of-the-art center will help generations of families like the Pattons, and it’s possible because of the support of donors who believed with us in the project’s impact on our community.