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Oh, Baby! A Lesson for Clarkson University Physical Therapy Students

When students in Clarkson University's Doctor of Physical Therapy Program study human motor development, they start at the beginning, with the most accurate examples possible -- visiting babies.

Clinical Instructor of Physical Therapy Heather Shattuck observes Kinsley Sekelj, daughter of Patricia Perrier and Gasper Sekelj of Potsdam, N.Y.In addition to being darned cute, the smiling infants demonstrate a variety of natural reflexes, allowing students get to see firsthand how the little ones move and develop motor skills, and how these differ at various ages.

“We use a problem-based-learning curriculum model. Our classes are built around cases,” says Assoc. Prof. George Fulk, chair of physical therapy. “Students work in small groups or in tutorials with faculty members, so they learn how to ask the right questions, find information and apply what they have learned to patient cases. A lot of direct patient care is integrated into our program and we introduce students to a wide variety of clinical scenarios.”

The Physical Therapy program has been offered at Clarkson University for nearly 15 years, notes Fulk, who joined the faculty in 2002. Physical therapy is a graduate program that goes year-round, allowing the students complete their studies in eight semesters.

“It's been enjoyable to watch the students learn and mature,” he adds.

The physical therapy students complete 38 weeks of full-time clinical experience by working at local hospitals, clinics, and schools. They also gain hands-on experience through shorter clinical partnerships as well.

“We've had 'Baby Day' here for quite a while. During their first semester, students learn about how people develop across the life span, and the babies provide great examples of early motor development,” says Fulk. “By watching the babies, students can see how infants develop motor skills, the normal movement patterns most children follow, and reflex milestones to note. The information helps the students understand how people can relearn motor patterns after an injury.”

There's a huge need for health care providers in the North Country, as well as across the country, so physical therapy providers can expect to have a busy career helping patients of all ages. Infants, athletes, people who have been injured, and older adults all may need physical therapy.

“This is definitely a great field to work in,” notes Fulk.

Clarkson University launches leaders into the global economy. One in six alumni already leads as a CEO, VP or equivalent senior executive of a company. Located just outside the Adirondack Park in Potsdam, N.Y., Clarkson is a nationally recognized research university for undergraduates with select graduate programs in signature areas of academic excellence directed toward the world's pressing issues. Through 50 rigorous programs of study in engineering, business, arts, sciences and health sciences, the entire learning-living community spans boundaries across disciplines, nations and cultures to build powers of observation, challenge the status quo, and connect discovery and engineering innovation with enterprise.

Photo caption: Parent and infant volunteers recently visited Clarkson University where Doctor of Physical Therapy students learned about normal childhood development and how to motivate children in physical therapy activities. Above, Clinical Instructor of Physical Therapy Heather Shattuck observes Kinsley Sekelj, daughter of Patricia Perrier and Gasper Sekelj of Potsdam, N.Y.

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[News directors and editors: For more information, contact Annie Harrison, Director of Media Relations, at 315-268-6764 or]

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