By Cameron Rasmusson
Maresa Black spends a lot of time on the road.
As an occupational therapist who, in her private practice, has revived the house call, she drives from client to client, working with children on physical and behavioral issues in the comfort of a familiar environment. These moments in the car between appointments are a sanctuary for her, and taking in the beauty of the mountains and waters, she’s reminded of why she’s worked so hard to make North Idaho her home.
“It is honestly very inspiring to drive around in this natural environment,” she said. “To have that time to process and reflect and absorb the wonders around us—I think it’s a good balance.”
That natural beauty and the work of nurturing children go hand-in-hand for Black. The owner of Journey Pediatric Therapy, Black works with children to help them achieve greater independence and integration into their communities. She provides therapy on a wide range of concerns, including developmental issues, physical disability, sensory integration difficulties, feeding problems, muscular or mobility challenges and behavioral dilemmas.
“We work a lot with a lot of kids who have autism, ADHD and other behavioral issues,” Black said.
One of the signature services of Journey Pediatric Therapy is the house call. Rather than having parents and kids drive in to a pediatric office, Black brings the therapy to the family home. According to Black, there are several advantages to this model, not least of which is the comfortable, familiar environment that helps children focus on their treatment. It’s also useful for Black, who can observe her patients in their home setting and answer questions or share observations with parents easily. Of course, the saved hassle for families is nothing to ignore, either.
“I would say having worked in clinical setting versus going to clients’ homes, we have far fewer cancellations,” Black said. “It’s one of those conveniences we don’t get very often these days.”
Each client brings his or her own unique challenges to address and problems to overcome. Black plays the detective in early sessions, observing what stimuli exacerbate the problems and what approaches yield improvements.
“Each therapy session is a great big puzzle—we’re trying to solve a great big puzzle every time,” Black said.
Given the variety of unique circumstances, there are never easy solutions to those puzzles. In one case, a boy showed slow progress until Black learned he responded well to tactile pressure and the sensation of being contained. The introduction of a weighted vest that provided that comforting feeling produced a huge improvement to problematic behavior.
“With proper equipment, the difference has been night and day,” Black said.
Black moved to North Idaho after completing occupational therapy school and taking a position at Bonner General Health. However, she eventually determined that if she wanted to pursue pediatrics, her true passion, and continue to live in North Idaho, the only option was to start her own private practice.
“I had a wonderful time working at BGH, but there was just no time to do pediatrics,” Black said. “That was the only piece that caused me to spin off in another direction. Since I’ve been doing this, I’ve had a chance to see that there really is a huge need [for pediatric therapy] in the community.”
While North Idaho has a reputation as a difficult environment to flourish as a young professional, Black said that the benefits of life in the Panhandle well outweigh the challenges. Black and her boyfriend spend much of their time exploring the regional trails in the summer or shredding the slopes of Schweitzer in the winter. It’s moments like that, Black said, when the joys of living and working in the region really hit home.
“One thing that I absolutely love is that we don’t have to go more than five minutes before we can start having some kind of outdoorsy adventure,” she added.
For more information about Journey Pediatric Therapy, check out www.JourneyPediatrics.com.
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