Harry Potter and the magic of physical therapy

Lower School student Aidan finds inspiration and motivation in wizard-themed strength and mobility exercises

A boy straddles a bolster swing while throwing a ball through a hoop.

Aidan's Harry Potter-themed physical therapy incorporates Quidditch, a magical sport played on flying broomsticks, with a bolster swing serving as the "broom" for him to sit on while he throws balls through a hoop.

November 10, 2016

Fourteen-year-old student Aidan may not have Harry Potter’s flying broom or spell-casting wand, but he feels the magic every time he attends his physical therapy sessions at Perkins School for the Blind.

On this particular Friday morning, he’s chasing clues about wizards and magical beasts across the Lower School as part of a scavenger hunt designed by his physical therapist, Taylor Chasey.

“Instead of just walking to the stairs, we’re walking to the stairs while thinking about something he enjoys,” she said.

Chasey has designed a whole series of activities around the Harry Potter books to motivate Aidan, a longtime fan of the fantasy series, and to make his physical therapy sessions more enjoyable.

Aidan has cortical visual impairment and cerebral palsy, so he requires leg braces and often uses a wheelchair or crutches to get around. Chasey helps him work on overall strength and balance as well as functional mobility, so he can navigate more independently around the school.

Today, she has printed a series of Harry Potter trivia questions like “Where did Sirius Black escape from?” and “Winky and Dobby are what type of magical creatures?” and strategically placed clues on ramps and hallways where she wants Aidan to walk. Aidan, who has some usable vision, finds the clues to answer the questions.

Making exercise fun makes a big difference, Chasey said.

“Physical therapy is challenging for many of the students we work with,” she said. “We don’t want them to come in and out of physical therapy with a sense of it being just really hard work.”

The Harry Potter-themed activities started with Aidan’s previous physical therapist, Kellan Carrig, who learned that Aidan was a big fan of the series. The popular books and movies follow an orphaned English boy, Harry Potter, and his adventures at the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.

Carrig even incorporated Quidditch, a magical sport played by Harry Potter on flying broomsticks, into Aidan’s exercises, by creating a “broom” for him to sit on while throwing balls through a hoop. 

When Chasey arrived in September, she used a Harry Potter quiz Carrig had left for her to help bond with Aidan. Now, they’re developing their own activities involving Harry and his adventures. Chasey is also hoping to incorporate Aidan’s other interests, like socializing with other students, into their sessions.

Discovering a student’s passion is key, Chasey said. One of her students loves playing the keyboard, so she’s attached it to the wall with Velcro for him to play while he balances on a tilt board. Another likes to hear Chasey sing, so instead of just telling him what she wants him to do next, she turns it into a song.

“As you get to know the students you can use just about anything to make sure they’re having fun,” Chasey said.

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