Please enjoy these updates, photos, & more that involve our UI New Jersey Therapy sessions. We update this page often, so please check back in with us soon for more live updates.

October 2022

Rock Climbing.

At Universal, we believe that all mountains can be conquered, including the indoor ones. With that philosophy in mind we have continued to look for therapies that safely challenge our clients’ limits while also engaging the mind, body, and spirit – and our search led us to our newest adventure, indoor rock climbing.

An activity that is mentally and emotionally engaging is a great starting point for any therapy because not only does it excite and focus the clients, it leaves them inspired. We can all relate to facing a seemingly insurmountable obstacle taunting us to overcome it, even if it must be one step at a time.

Christian, our Activity Specialist, spots Jean with the rope as he climbs his way up the wall
Bryna always gives it her all during therapy

Better to raise our skill than lower the climb.
Royal Robbins

Bryna, Alex, and Jean finding their own path upward, assisted by Kina (left) and Petra (center).

The four clients that attended this first rock climbing outing were ready and eager; this was a unique opportunity to be challenged in a way they have never been challenged before.

Kina, our Assistant Director of the Physical Therapy Department, provides an in-depth explanation of each client’s PT goals:

Bryna uses PT provided modified wrist/hand hooks as she has limitation in her finger and grip strength. Rock climbing helps her work on her standing posture and balance while she reaches, weight shifts, and lifts one leg at a time to place her hands and feet on the rock holds.

Alex, who is working with our PT Assistant Petra, is targeting a few things. He’s working on his standing balance and coordination as he reaches and targets the rocks with better control and accuracy. Reaching for the rock holds that are further away allows him  to work on his arm flexibility.  Scanning for a rock path promotes better neck posture and control. 

Greg will also be targeting his coordination – while reaching hands and placing feet on the rock holds, we’ll emphasize control and accuracy with his reaches.  Moving his feet along the wall will target his balance especially stability with single leg support. He’ll also be working on judgement with selecting the holds/path that are safest for him.

Although the reality of rock climbing seemed intimidating at first, the clients displayed tremendous courage and a willingness to give their best despite any temporary doubts. Supported by our reliable PT and Enrichment teams, the clients surprised themselves with how much fun they had. During the days following the outing, the clients continued to talk about their rock climbing experience and were already planning their next climb – would they use the harness to ascend higher next time? How would they maneuver their hands and legs differently? Should there be any changes to their adaptive equipment? Long after the experience was over, these questions motivated them to problem solve, plan, and look forward to their next attempt at facing the wall – one purposeful step up at a time.

October 2022

Equestrian Therapy.

Winston Churchill once said that no hour of life is wasted when spent in a saddle. Missy Lyons declared that, “in riding a horse, we borrow freedom.” You can see where we’re going with this.

Although UI Rehab has always championed therapy and activities with animals – we’ve had everything from dogs, rabbits, goats, birds, and snakes – equestrian therapy is in a world of it’s own. Luckily for us, this therapy is being bravely tested by one of our newest clients, John. John came to Universal in the late Spring of this year, and from day one he was vocal about his desire to stay active and to try new experiences.

He was also candid with his hesitations about transferring from his old way of life to a new rehabilitation facility; it was a big change for John. Equestrian therapy was offered to him in order to support his mental health, physical posture, arm and leg strength, and overall confidence. Clearly, this is a multifaceted approach to therapy that targets and supports both the physical and cognitive abilities of the rider.

John listening to the instructor while learning to balance on the horse
John and his horse being led by the trainer around the stables – it takes time and patience to build rapport with an animal!

With his white stallion and the golden woods behind him, John looks like a scene from a fantasy book.

There are many parallels between learning to ride a horse and any form of therapy. Horses are big, powerful animals that must be approached with patience and trust. The first moments after climbing into the saddle can feel exhilarating but also scary; the rider must learn to relinquish control to the animal while simultaneously leading and communicating in specific ways. The equestrian therapist has worked with John to practice patience and poise while riding a horse.

As of this post, John has completed his fourth lesson at Seaton Hackney Stables in Morristown, NJ. He’s already come a long way during his hour-long therapy sessions; at his first session he was anxious from simply sitting on the horse. By his fourth session, he was channeling his inner cowboy riding along the trail and through the river. Yeehaw, John!


June 2022

We’ve all heard about it by now. If you haven’t, you may still be wondering what those loud thwacks are as you’ve walked by the park; you’ve witnessed people on the tennis courts hitting wiffle balls with paddles. It’s a new sport called pickleball, and here at Universal we’ve quickly fallen in love with it.

Through our partnership with the NJ Sharing Network, we connected with a woman named Michele Dabal from the Hoop Heaven sports facility in Whippany, NJ. Michele encouraged Lauren Dick, our Community Enrichment Coordinator, to bring some clients to try pickleball for it’s exercise and therapy value. There were no ambiguities about the verdict – after the first outing, pickleball became an instant hit with the therapists, staff and clients.

Pickleball is a unique activity that encompasses everything we are looking for in effective therapy: it is extremely fun and engaging, it’s accessible to clients of varying abilities, and it can target a wide range of therapy goals. The UI team immediately scheduled a permanent monthly pickleball outing but there were still many clients who couldn’t make it to Hoop Heaven to try pickleball for themselves. So, we decided to bring the pickleball to them. On June 26th, Michele came to the UI Rehab Day Program with her pickleball gear to give the clients a chance to play a round or two on their home court. The therapists and clients spent a beautiful day outside in the courtyard feeling like athletes and fueling their competitive spirits – all while working on targeted therapy goals.

So far, our OT, PT and Cog departments have all been able to design and execute therapy sessions through our pickleball event and outings. During the summer months, weather permitting, all pickleball outings at Hoop Heaven will take place outside. We want to send a huge thank you to Michele for bringing the excitement of pickleball to our UI Rehab world. If you’d like to learn more about Michele and her pickleball academy, please visit See you on the courts!

blank words for space

Physical Therapy Gardening Style!

During the past few years – headed by our Community Enrichment Coordinator Lauren Dick – Universal has made it a goal to create an on-premise garden fully run by the clients and therapists. As the garden project has continued to expand, many departments at Universal have found creative ways to incorporate therapy and enrichment activities utilizing our garden. This featured session focused on Physical Therapy (PT) goals with multiple clients who have varying levels of abilities and skills. Most importantly, the clients had so much fun being outside! Sometimes, the two best therapists are fresh dirt and sunshine.

Tuesday, February 15th; Physical Therapy @ Sport’s Universe

Our Livingston Physical Therapy department teamed up with our enrichment department to take several of our athletically-driven clients to Sport’s Universe today for their skilled P.T. sessions. Physical therapy sessions promoted client goals of ambulation, balance, core strength, mobility, and coordination. This is a brand new outing that we are offering our physical therapy clients that will be coordinated once per month. We look forward to seeing our clients continue to progress in their physical therapy goals while also doing what they love.

Wednesday, February 9th: Occupational Therapy Goes Bowling

Combining community integration and occupational therapy, the OT Team in Long Branch took our skilled services to the alley this week for a week of working towards our therapy goals, social goals, & our bowling game simultaneously.

Wednesday, February 9th: Cognitive Therapy @ Board & Brush

Cognitive therapy sessions took place at the Board & Brush design studio in Livingston today. Bruce, Edwin, Jean, & Eric followed verbal and visual multiple-step directions to complete their masterpieces! All projects permitted our clients to have fun in the community while also receiving cognitive remediation strategies offered by our skilled therapists.

Monday, January 17th:

Michelle practicing balance, strength, endurance, & coordination in occupational therapy. We are always so excited to provide therapy sessions that are meaningful to the client while also promoting skilled therapy goals.

December 16, 2021: Holiday Fun in O.T.!

December, 2021: Happy Holidays!

Happy Holidays from our therapy team! The month of December is always one of our favorite times of the year. We keep it festive around here with skilled therapy sessions that provide our clients with opportunities to focus on their clinical goals and the spirit of the holiday season simultaneously. We hope that you enjoy these photos…HAPPY HOLIDAYS!

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