CEDAR RAPIDS — One of the things Kassi Tuthill loves about her role as an occupational therapist is the marriage of science and creativity. Where science offers a solution to an issue, creativity can make it happen.
It was through this combination of science and creativity that Tuthill, a Witwer Children’s Therapy Center therapist, found a new way to help one of her young patients.
Olivia Muñoz, the nearly 14-month-old daughter of Felix and Megan Muñoz of Cedar Rapids, was born with trisomy 13, a disorder caused by an extra chromosome 13. She is visually and hearing-impaired, but it’s uncertain at this time how severely.
Tuthill said developmentally, Olivia is at the same level as a four-month-old.
To help Olivia develop, Tuthill turned to technology “to help her boost what she does have.” She asked her husband, Will, to follow the design of an invention by Danish psychologist Dr. Lilli Nielsen — a resonance board, which is a piece of four-by-four Birch wood suspended by two-centimeter-high strips of wood along the bottom edge, leaving a hollow space under the board.
When placed on the board, any movement or sound the child makes on the board creates a vibration on all parts of the child’s body in contact with the wood, which in turn encourages activity.
Tuthill said the resonance boards gives visually and hearing-impaired children another sensory input to be able to feel the world around them.
It helps with making up for some of what’s lost,” Tuthill said.
“To be able to have another input or another way to feel the world, knowing you are in the world, it helps push along all of those milestones and developments,” she said.
Olivia has been using the board for about a month.
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“The child will have an opportunity to develop an understanding of space by learning about the limited space which the resonance board represents,” according to Active Learning Space, a website that provides resources on Nielsen’s active learning techniques for early childhood development.
“When the child starts to move about on the board, he or she will develop a good basis for motivation to use the space beyond the resonance board,” the website said. “This will allow him or her to start moving from place to place.”
At Friday’s appointment, Tuthill was helping Olivia learn how to roll over and support herself with her arms. Olivia played with noisy toys and blow raspberries with her mouth, reacting to whatever new noise or movement she felt.
In the time they’ve used the resonance board, Megan Muñoz said she’s seen “huge, huge, huge changes” in her daughter’s development. Now, she can roll and sit up with some support.
Muñoz, a nurse with the UnityPoint Health Diabetes and Kidney Center, uses a smaller resonance board — also constructed by Will Tuthill — with Olivia at home. Muñoz said they use the board frequently.
Olivia will continue therapy with the resonance board for the foreseeable future. Every child with trisomy 13 develops differently after the first year, and there’s no clear indication what Olivia’s future holds for her.
“I just hope she can be independent someday,” Muñoz said. “That she can feel satisfied and fulfilled and be able to function somewhat independently.”
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