“I made thousands of phone calls, searching for a pediatric physical therapist who would treat torticollis, and there’s not many in the Bronx. Tara came highly recommended, and I’m so glad I found her.”
Jessica Colon is the mother of 20-month-old Christopher, who was diagnosed at birth with congenital muscular torticollis (CMT), a one-sided shortening of the sternocleidomastoid (SCM) muscle that runs along both sides of the neck and from the back of the ears to the collarbone. It can result from positioning in the womb or after a difficult childbirth.
“Christopher’s birth was really difficult for me,” Jessica said. “I was in labor for 24 hours, and he had such a large head the doctors had to do a vacuum-assisted delivery. I found out the next day he had fractured his right clavicle during the delivery. That’s what started it all.”
Along with the torticollis, Christopher also had plagiocephaly, or a flattening of the skull. He had a difficult time turning his head, wasn’t crawling and had overall extreme weakness on his right side. He had very poor core muscle strength and had other physical delays.
“I knew there was something wrong, but I wasn’t sure what it was,” Jessica said. “I got guidance from colleagues as well as Christopher’s daycare provider, and I knew I needed to follow up and get him evaluated. I knew we needed help.”
Early intervention is key for a quick recovery and prevention of further functional problems as a child grows.
When Christopher was about four months old, Jessica found Cranial Technologies, a clinic solely dedicated to treating infants with plagiocephaly. They evaluated Christopher and put him in the DOC Band, a custom cranial helmet. It was Cranial Technologies who encouraged Jessica to also find a pediatric physical therapist who could work with Christopher on strengthening his weak motor skills and help correct his physical behaviors.
“Cranial Technologies said not to wait, so I went to my insurance company and finally found Tara,” she said. “We started seeing her twice a week, and she was fantastic with Christopher.”
Tara Liddle has been a pediatric physical therapist for more than 30 years, and she is the regional director of pediatric therapy at MOTION, Inc. She received her bachelor’s degree in physical therapy and master’s degree in physical therapy management of developmental disabilities from New York University.
“When we first started with Tara, Christopher did not like to be touched on or near his neck at all,” Jessica said. “But she worked with him consistently, and the physical therapy has made such a difference. His body was asymmetrical, and he was extremely weak on one side. She stretched out and loosened his neck muscles, and it improved the range of motion in his neck.”
The primary goal of early intervention is to restore full neck movement as early as possible as well as stop or reverse the progression of skull deformities. Liddle worked to improve Christopher’s symmetry and focus on age-appropriate gross motor development.
“Tara was so helpful, even sharing advice with me that wasn’t related to Christopher’s therapy,” Jessica said. “As a new mom, I was overwhelmed and had had minimal guidance on Christopher’s condition and care. She took the time to recommend toys I should get for him and activities to do with him to strengthen his motor skills. She worked through Christopher’s sensitivities, and now he’s able to see a chiropractor, who needs to touch and move his neck. Tara made that possible. It is such a change from a year ago.”
While he still has some challenges ahead, Christopher is now on the right path, thanks to Liddle and his mom’s push for early intervention.
“He’s doing so much better, thanks to Tara,” Jessica said. “She is amazing, and we’re grateful to have met her at the time we did!”
While currently pursuing a doctoral degree in pediatric physical therapy, Liddle is a frequent speaker at hospitals, schools and parent groups. She is also the author of a new book, “Why Motor Skills Matter,” exploring the importance of touch, movement and play in the neurodevelopment and well-being of children birth through age five.