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Penn/Sommer Partnership Brings Pediatric Occupational Therapy to St. Thomas

Pictured above is St. Thomas-based Dr. Cecilia Penn

This month, St. Croix-based Occupational Therapist Julie Sommer and St. Thomas-based Dr. Cecilia Penn celebrate one year in partnership, expanding therapy services available to young Virgin Islanders.

Occupational therapy is defined as a form of therapy for those recuperating from physical or mental illness, that encourages rehabilitation through the performance of activities required in daily life.

Previously, physical therapy and speech pathology services existed for pediatric patients on St. Thomas, but occupational therapy is a new offering. Both Sommer and Penn believe this collaborative treatment will ultimately be more effective for their patients.

Pictured above is Occupational Therapist Julie Sommer, based on St. Croix.

Sommer has practiced on St. Croix since 2011 in conjunction with Island Therapy Solutions in Gallows Bay. Her partnership plan with Penn was established prior to Hurricanes Irma and Maria, but the storms delayed the roll out on St. Thomas. In the last year, Occupational Therapist Kate Cavacco joined the team, relocating to live on St. Thomas. She already has a full patient caseload and sees approximately 30 children regularly.

The team work closely with St. Thomas schools like Virgin Islands Montessori and Antilles School, along with day cares centers. They see a diverse case load of patients, from those with a diagnosis of autism, to older children seeking to learn basic home life skills. Treatments include sensory and play-based therapy, which can include feeding interventions for oral / motor issues.

Replicating Sommer’s successful treatment environment on St. Croix, she has established a “playroom” space on St. Thomas. A swing was recently added to make it a fun experience for pediatric patients. Sommer now goes to St. Thomas once a month for evaluations, to supervise and set-up treatments.

As Sommer does on St. Croix, she continues to work in tandem with Island Therapy Solutions on referrals for St. Thomas patients. The next hopeful step for the partners is to expand the occupational therapy service offering to the British Virgin Islands, beginning in Tortola.

More information can be found at Partners4Kids.com. The St. Thomas office location is in Lockhart Gardens near Charlotte Amalie and Schneider Regional Medical Center.

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