The seed for Bethany Adler’s career likely was planted during her teens. Adler worked as a nanny for a family who had adopted a 9-month-old girl from an orphanage in Russia.
“When they got her here, she had a lot of delays in a lot of areas, especially physical delays,” Adler says. “I would take her to her weekly physical therapy session (and) from that moment, I was like, this is too cool. I have to do this.”
After earning a bachelor’s in biology from Southwest Baptist University in Bolivar, Adler went on to earn a doctorate in physical therapy from Missouri State University.
Adler says she considered other fields of study, but pediatric physical therapy felt the most natural.
Today, the Nixa resident spends many hours on the road as an independent contractor for Ste. Genevieve-based Ability Network Inc., an agency that offers early intervention services to infants and toddlers with developmental disabilities in rural and underserved communities.
She also works as a PT in the area public school systems through Access Potential Physical Therapy Services in Republic.
In a given week, Adler visits Joplin-area children in the state’s First Steps program for infants to patients 3 years old who are experiencing delayed development or developmental disabilities, and she works with Carthage and Seneca school students who need physical therapy.
Patients’ challenges range from cerebral palsy or spina bifida to bilateral coordination, balance or muscle strength.
She says the job stretches her because she’s never really being off the clock and she’s always motivating children to do what they need to do.
“Obviously, working with kids, they’re not always as compliant as adults. You have to create a game or make it fun,” she notes.
Adler says these issues are more than offset by the rewards. “With First Steps, it’s really cool because I’ll get texts from parents. We’ve been working on crawling for nine months, and they’ll text me at 9 p.m. and say, ‘Look, he’s finally crawling,’” Adler says.
While Adler’s primary goal is to help children achieve their potential, she says working with parents is a priority as well.
“I’m very thankful that I’m in the place that I’m at … especially going into homes and getting to know these families. I work with some of these kids for almost three years,” Adler says.
“If it’s a day when it’s been a rough week or a rough day … I believe part of my job is to be there as an emotional support.”Click here for full coverage of the 2012 Salute to Health Care.