Facility offers gymnastics, yoga for children
Occupational therapist Dala Aavik Lucas of Therapy Yoga Gymnastics Rocks works with a child while on Friday, July 13, 2012, in Northbrook. | Buzz Orr~Sun-Times
Updated: August 20, 2012 6:29AM
NORTHBROOK – Therapy Yoga Gymnastics Rocks is an enterprise that specializes in turning children with challenges, as well as every day youngsters, into TYGRs.
The gym, which is run at 1845 Raymond Drive in Northbrook by Dala Aavik Lucas of Glenview, delivers pediatric occupational, physical and speech therapy in a fun, sensory rich gymnastic and yoga setting.
Children between 2 and 12 years old work one-on-one with therapists an hour at a time in small natural peer groups, or in larger gymnastics classes using sensory play through gymnastics and yoga. And the goals are for the youngsters to excel in physical, cognitive, social and life skills.
“We do a lot of psychological work as well as physical, treating the entire person,” Lucas said. “It’s really rewarding, because it’s working on what people and children do to occupy their lives.”
Lucas, who graduated from the University of Oklahoma in 1986 and was certified in 1990 to work in early intervention, already had more than two decades of experience working with children before establishing the business.
She had pediatric inpatient and outpatient experience working at the Rehab Institute of Chicago, the Neurological Center, the Advocate Neonatal Unit, the Teen Mental Health Inpatient Unit and the Belle Center of Chicago. Lucas also worked to support children with special needs in private schools and at the North Suburban Special Education Early Childhood-Middle School.
She specializes in neuro-developmental treatment, sensory processing disorder, special education resources, as well as teaching, vision, behavior and alter programs.
But it wasn’t until Lucas saw the website of a California occupational therapist who was using a gymnastic center for more than sensory integration that she realized that she could successfully do the same thing in this area.
“He realized that the gym could be used for all kinds of physical limitations and was very highly motivating for children,” Lucas said. “In the same way that gymnastics is fun for typically developing children, it is very dynamic and unbelievably fun for children with a variety of special needs and physical challenges.”
She believes so much in what she is doing that besides opening the facility in Northbrook about two and a half years ago, she has also opened additional sites in Libertyville and in Chicago.
Lucas also has six therapists specializing in different areas of therapy working with her — one in speech therapy, three in occupational therapy and two in physical therapy.
“A child’s occupation is to play, to be a student and a friend. But for some of the kids we see, taking their shoe’s and socks off can be a challenge,” Lucas said.
“Here, even kids with behavior disorders learn to wait their turn and interact with the other children,” she said. “It’s a very inclusive environment that is not just for kids with problems, so its highly motivating and it really works.”
Suzanne Finkle, a Northbrook mom who takes her son Griffin, an 11-year-old fifth-grader at Westmoor Elementary School, to the gym said the experience has helped him greatly.
“Griffin, who has autism, has been working out at the gym for more than a year. He not only looks forward to going there every week, but we’ve also seen huge improvements,” she said. “He is stronger and his balance is better. We have seen him do things we never thought we would see him do.”