By Maria Maxham
Less than a year after opening on Madison Street, Power of Play (POP) Pediatric Therapy is expanding to a space three times its current size. Owners Danielle Lemon and Nancy Ruggles are moving into the storefront next door at 7423 Madison St., a space previously occupied by Jayne. The goal is to be operating within the new place, which is undergoing construction, by the end of November.
Lemon and Ruggles opened the door to POP Pediatric Therapy on Jan. 7. The practice focuses on pediatric occupational therapy, speech therapy and mental health services and serves children from infants through young adults. According to Ruggles, who has practiced as an occupational therapist for over 17 years, their business grew more quickly than they originally anticipated.
Both Ruggles and Lemon, a practicing pediatric occupational therapist for over 13 years, brought a full caseload to the business when they opened, and since then they've received over 100 new referrals.
"I think the increase speaks to the fact that there's a huge unmet need in local communities for this type of therapy," said Lemon.
"We've seen a big increase in older kids who come to us with attention issues. School and life demand a lot from them. We see school refusal and sensory processing and emotional regulation issues," said Ruggles.
According to Lemon, they've also seen an increase in demand for their social groups, both from new referrals to their practice but also from children who currently attend the groups.
"Kids are excited to come to the groups," said Lemon. "That's the biggest compliment we could ever receive."
"The priority is for kids to feel safe," said Ruggles. "And there's no judgment."
POP Pediatric Therapy runs groups for both boys and girls to help them with sensory and attention issues and emotional regulation. The groups provide peer support and occupational therapy within a play-based environment that's fun.
In fact, the model of the practice is centered around the power of play, after which the practice is named, and on finding meaningful and purposeful activities for each individual child.
"We really want to respect each child's individual differences," said Lemon.
POP Pediatric Therapy also offers free screenings for children. These 20- to 30-minute assessments are casual, during which the therapists watch children play to see how they interact. If there's reason for concern, Lemon and Ruggles will recommend a more in-depth and detailed assessment.
One of the goals of both Ruggles and Lemon is to engage more with the community and open their doors to families. In October, they're starting POP!-in Play Group sessions, which are open to all children with caregivers. These sessions begin on Oct. 22 and run every Tuesday and Thursday for five weeks. Play sessions for kids up to the age of three will be held on Tuesdays from 11 a.m. to noon. Sessions for kids aged three to five will be held on Thursdays from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. It's $5 per session, and the Oct. 22 and 24 sessions are free. Reservations are encouraged at email@example.com.
Ruggles and Lemon also plan to start parent outreach events, both educational and social.
"We might have a dietician come out to talk to parents from the community," said Ruggles. "But we're also looking at doing a mom's night out, where parents can have a glass of wine or dinner at a local restaurant while we provide activities for the kids here at the clinic."
Lemon added, "We don't want parents to feel isolated."
Isolation is certainly not what they've felt since opening their business in Forest Park.
"Everyone is so nice here," said Lemon. "The Chamber of Commerce has been amazing, and the community has been extremely welcoming."