Cheering For Success At Genesis Pediatric Therapy
Six-year-olds Madi Ramirez and Lynsey Stevenson have new motivation to jump in the therapeutic pool and build their balance and leg strength during therapy sessions at Genesis Pediatric Therapy.
They’re cheerleaders. They have pompoms to wave, letters to spell with their arms, and human pyramids to top.
Despite their physical disabilities, Madi and Lynsey are among several Genesis Pediatric Therapy Center patients who are part of Integrated Cheer Experience, or ICE.
In its first year, the program pairs students who have cognitive and physical disabilities with competitive cheerleaders from Eastern Iowa All-Stars Cheerleading. With the help of their older partners, girls with special needs participate in feats they never expected they could do. Genesis Pediatric Therapy Center is a team sponsor.
Recently, the ICE team cheered during half-time of the Harlem Globetrotters game at the i wireless Center. This Saturday, they will cheer in a competition at Pleasant Valley High School.
The experience has been a confidence builder for Madi, who has a progressive neuromuscular disease called spinal muscular atrophy, and Lynsey, who was born with spina bifida, a birth defect that involves the incomplete development of the spinal cord or its coverings.
Each is paired with an Eastern Iowa All- Stars cheerleader, who helps them accomplish moves their bodies can’t and showcase the ones they can.
When the girls aren’t at practice, physical therapist Katie Snyder guides them through physical therapy that will help them be more successful when they cheer.
“Both girls work to improve their balance and lower-extremity strength,” Snyder says. “Madi can stand independently but is not able to squat. Lynsey is working on balance and would love to be able to jump. Improving their balance helps when the cheer team uses them as fliers to top a pyramid, for example.”
Madi’s mother, Megan Ramirez of LeClaire, is a coach and co-owner of Eastern Iowa All-Stars. The ICE team formed at the request of high school girls on the All-Stars’ highest competitive team. The All-Star youth plan practices, contact parents, and create routines.
Like the other girls
Cheerleading has enhanced her daughter’s life. It means a lot to Madi to be able to go to cheer practice with her two older sisters.
“Madi’s mobility is limited. She can walk short distances but she also has a wheelchair,” her mother says. “When they put her in a stunt, she waves and smiles and thinks she’s a star. They help move her arms; carry her around the floor; and, move her from spot to spot. When they do jumps, they lift her up because Madi can’t jump.”
Madi’s mother adds, “Every little girl wants to be a cheerleader. She gets to come and have fun and forget about her disability for a little while. No one is judging her. She smiles and has a good time.”
Lynsey’s mom, Tammy Stevenson of LeClaire, recalls her daughter’s excitement at getting to perform at the Harlem Globetrotters event. “Lynsey has wanted to perform at the i wireless Center since she was 2 years old,” she says. “The fact she and the cheer team performed at half-time was a big deal for her. She thought she was the main event.”
She adds, “Lynsey talks about being the only one at school with spina bifida. When she’s with other girls with special needs, she can be herself. She doesn’t have to be self-conscious that she’s ‘the only one who can’t do it.’”
Both mothers can’t say enough about the progress their daughters have made at Genesis Pediatric Therapy. They appreciate the center’s therapists for their hope and positive attitudes.
Instead of the predicted slow decline in her condition, Megan Ramirez has seen weekly evidence that Madi’s gaining strength and mastering more. She and her husband, Tom, weren’t given much hope when they learned Madi’s awkward crawl at age 2 stemmed from spinal muscle atrophy. At the time, doctors told them Madi would never walk.
Lynsey has been going to the center for four years. Therapy is so much fun, “she thinks she’s going to Genesis to play,” her mother says.
“She’s always wanted to jump and is thrilled to climb a footstool in the pool and jump off it. She also is working on standing on one foot at a time. It may sound trivial to anybody else, but it’s so important to her. She can’t do it on land yet, but it makes her happy to do it in the water. She’s doing things we never thought she would be able to do.”
The Genesis Pediatric Therapy Center offers care in a newly re-designed and remodeled 6,000-square foot facility at Genesis Medical Park, Maplecrest Road in Bettendorf. The center and its team specialize in programs that meet the needs of children requiring physical, occupational and speech therapies. For information, call (563) 421-3497.