Community Hospital

Pediatric Therapy Services

The Pediatric Physical and Occupational Therapy Services Department works with children from premature infants to children with needs into the High School years.  Our therapists are committed to assisting your child and your family understand your specific challenges.  Our team-approach allows the therapist to evaluate and treat your child using the most appropriate and up-to-date treatment techniques. 

Our staff is trained in the traditional approaches such as an integrated therapeutic approach as well as the most advanced techniques available including myofascial release, sensory integration, infant massage, and electrical stimulation.  Our department uses a variety of activities to keep your child involved including therapeutic play, balance and coordination games, the Wii, handwriting and pediatric aquatic therapy. 

For those children with plagiocephaly or torticollis, we team with the Center for Orthotic and Prosthetic Excellence (COPE) when needed to give your child the best fitting helmet using the Star Scanner.  

Our therapists will always discuss the treatment with the parents or caregivers, and will encourage their participation in the session for carry-over at home. 

Our staff is also dedicated to serving the community of children with special needs.  We are proud founding members of the Cooperative Special Recreation Initiative (CSRI), a group dedicated to providing therapeutic recreation in Northwest Indiana for all children with special needs and their families. 

Pediatric Aquatic Therapy

Pediatric Aquatic Therapy is offered for children 6 months and older with a diagnosis of: Autism, Cerebral Palsy/neurological disorders, orthopedic issues, Hemiparesis, Muscular Dystrophy, or other diagnoses.

Treatment is offered at Community Hospital Fitness Pointe®.  Aside from having fun in the water, the benefits include strengthening, increased range of the joints, pain relief, sensory awareness, balance and coordination, and core control.

Working with the medium of water allows the child to perform movements that may be too difficult to perform on land. The use of the water and its buoyant properties make the environment fun and challenging.  Games are often used for distraction as it adds the element of competition.

Meet the Pediatric Therapy Staff

Michelle Gessert, PT, CEIM
Pediatric Clinical Specialist

Michelle received her Bachelor of Science degree in Physical Therapy from the University of Wisconsin Madison in 1983.  She is certified in Infant Massage through Infant Massage USA developed by Vimala McClure.  She has worked with children of all types of diagnoses.  She is particularly interested in working with children with torticollis as her own child was born with this condition.  In her therapy, she has used aquatics, dog therapy, horse therapy, and has been a certified Early Intervention Specialists in many states.  Michelle currently works in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) with critically ill and premature infants, as well as providing out-patient therapy.  In her spare time, Michelle plays the guitar and saxophone, sings, and enjoys performing in musicals.

Lucia Salerno, MS, OTR/L
Pediatric Clinical Specialist

Lucia received a Master of Science degree in Occupational Therapy from Colorado State University in 2003.  She also has a Bachelor of Arts in Spanish in 2000 from the University of Illinois, and speaks fluent Spanish.  Lucia has been working at Community from 2004-present.  Her experience includes working with premature and critically ill infants in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU), outpatients of many different and varying diagnoses, and the use of aquatic therapy.  Lucia enjoys dancing, and now uses her artist gifts in raising her two children.

Judy Ryan, COTA/L
Judy received her Bachelor of Arts in Education from St. Xavier College in 1982 and her Associate Degree in Occupational Therapy from South Suburban College in 1988.  She has been trained in Handwriting Without Tears. She worked in the school system as an Early Intervention Specialist, and currently works with the pediatric outpatient population with various diagnoses.  She is also working with pediatrics in aquatic therapy.  In her spare time, Judy enjoys Arts and Crafts, wood working, sewing and quilting, lots of travel.

Amy Smith, OTR/L
Amy received her Bachelor of Arts degree from Chicago State University in 1996.  She was an Early Intervention specialist for many years working with home health pediatrics.  Currently Amy works in our Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) with premature and critically ill infants. She also has enjoyed working with children on horses, called Hippotherapy.  Amy is an avid athlete and also enjoys horseback riding in her spare time. 

Liz Zurek, MPT, CCCE
Senior Physical Therapist

Liz received her Master of Science degree in Physical Therapy from the University of Evansville in 2007. She has been with Community Hospital since 2007 as a physical therapist in acute care and pediatrics, and has been the Clinical Coordinator of Clinical Education since 2009. She also has worked with children through the First Steps early intervention system from 2007-2010. She has experience in working with children with a variety of diagnoses, and especially enjoys working with children with sensory processing disorders and developmental delays. She also has experience working with premature and critically ill infants in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). Outside of the clinical setting, Liz enjoys playing with both indoor and outdoor soccer leagues, baking, and time outdoors with her son and dog.

If you have questions or would like to make an appointment, please call our department at 219-836-4527.  A physician prescription is required for pediatric therapy.  Also, make an appointment for our Infant Massage and Baby’s Development class taught at Fitness Pointe®, by calling 219-836-3477.