Local clinic puts the "fun" in functional therapy

WWMT| Luke Edwards

In December 2014, Southwest Regional Rehab Center closed their doors for good leaving patients and employees questioning where to go next. Occupational therapist, Maria Dobbertien, worked in the pediatrician unit and she refused to let her patients be left out in the cold.

“Basically once it closed there were no other companies stood up and said we want to help these kids so I talked to a couple of doctors and medical professionals and they said why don’t you start your own clinic. I had no idea what to do, but I love working with kids and I wanted to make a difference in our community.” Dobbertien says.

When you first walk into the clinic it may just look like they are having fun and playing around, which is the goal of functional kids, but there is meaning behind the therapy.

“In school they teach you how to break down all these movements to know which muscles you’re targeting and choosing games to target those muscle groups and skills.” Dobbertien adds.

For example, chase struggles with using his hands and this therapy will help him become self-sufficient doing everyday tasks.

“Taking the lids off of objects to make yourself a sandwich, or opening a container you’ve got…objects you need. Those are things that he is going to struggle with and those are things he is going to have to do. In the classroom it may look like how to hold a pencil, how to write his name, how to tie his shoes, how you know even using things on the jungle gym strengthening his upper body. So we work on strength, coordination, with his eyes to stay focused.”

Like the patients they see functional kids has grown up in just three short years and they are now too big for their current office. So in hopes of expanding their care they will be moving to a building double the size of what they’re in now.

“So we’ll have a lot more options for having an indoor jungle gym that’s a little bit larger, we’ll have we’ll have space to do a lot more functional tasks like teaching kids how to walk you know those types of things. My hope is to have one spot where kids can get all the services they need and make it affordable and accessible to families” Dobbertien explains.

It may seem like other occupational therapy clinics, but the biggest difference is functional kids will go above and beyond.

I think the biggest difference is we really try to work with families. Unfortunately we have a lot of families from the Kalamazoo area and basically they’re told I’m sorry your insurance doesn’t cover it, but for me that is not an acceptable answer. If there is some way for me to help these people get what they need… that’s my job and if there is a way I can make that happen I’m going to do it.” Dobbertien says. “ Right now Medicaid refuses to enroll for speech therapy, because that’s how the school bills, so I’ve taken my families that have Medicaid and said I’ll scholarship you for the rest.

That is just start of her goal as she hopes to turn functional kids into a non-profit to continue giving back to the community.

“That’s our goal in the next couple of years and to take that money and to create scholarships for students who hope to go into this profession and scholarships for kids so they can actually get therapy whether or not their insurance covers it.” Dobbertien adds. “ Every person should have access to healthcare and that is obviously not the world we live in right now, so we have to find a way to make that happen so my goal is to find a way to make that happen.”

FUNctional Therapy will move to their new location at 391 S Shore Drive Suite 319/320 in Battle Creek, Michigan in mid-January 2018. They hope to add more fun activities, including a zip line to help with therapy. For more information on the FUNctional Therapy call (269) 223-7786 or email

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