Six-year old Eli really, really liked Digiorno Pizza. In fact, he practically wouldn’t eat anything else. The problem was, he wasn’t just a picky eater, as many kids are. “His anxiety around food was so bad that he would touch a noodle and then vomit,” his mother, Bradi, shared.
She said Eli had been in an occupational therapy for three years, with little success toward being able to eat a normal diet, and his many food allergies didn’t help. But eating wasn’t his only issue; Eli also had no interest in friends.
While searching elsewhere for someone to help her son, Bradi said she came across Kids on the Point (Occupational Therapy), where Eli, now age 8, has been a patient for the past two years.
“Yesterday, he ate half a kiwi and said, ‘This puts a smile on my face!’ ” boasted Megan Jewell, co-owner of Kids on the Point OT, Inc., with her mother and clinic founder, Bobbi Hanna. Eli, she points out, is just one of countless youth the clinic has helped.
Kids on the Point began seven years ago in Hanna’s home. When business grew too substantial for her home’s four walls, she moved to 2909 Carleton St., Suite A, in Point Loma, where the clinic now serves children from birth to young adulthood. Hanna and Jewell are part of a multi-generational Point Loma family; Hanna attended Correia Middle School, and Jewell, Silver Gate Elementary. Together they share a passion for supporting their community.
OT treatment helps individuals who struggle with a physical, sensory or cognitive disability be able to function normally and thrive in all areas of their lives, they explained. Autism, sensory processing disorders, ADD/ADHD, anxiety, dyslexia, cerebral palsy, Down syndrome, learning differences and social-emotional challenges are all on the spectrum of behaviors the Point addresses.
Both Jewell and Hanna have had ample experience in the OT field. Jewell received her Bachelor of Science degree in Kinesiology from Sonoma State University in 2010 and obtained a Master of Science degree in Occupation Therapy from the University of St. Augustine in 2012. She worked in pediatrics, as well as adult rehab, for two years.
Hanna has more than 20 years of experience as a Certified Occupational Therapy Assistant in private pediatric practices and school-based therapy in San Diego.
Like mother, like daughter, as both women have extensive continuing education — Jewell has received certifications in Craniosacral Therapy, iLs (Integrated Listening System) and SOS Approach to Feeding, Tummy Time method and Therapeutic Listening; Hanna with certification in iLs and advanced certification in Therapeutic Listening, Interactive Metronome and much more, according to their biographies at kidsonthepointot.com
“We help kids function in the everyday parts of life that most of us take for granted,” Hanna explained. Children often stay with the clinic for an average of six months to a year, but a child may continue therapy at the Point for years.
The workspace looks nothing like a clinic — bright colors, fun shapes, natural light and plants make the reception area warm and welcoming. The sweet-tempered, Golden Lab walking through the room reinforces first thoughts of, “Oh, I’m going to have fun here!”
Unless, of course, that child is afraid of dogs. When 5-year-old Deacon first met Breezy, the clinic’s therapy dog, he was terrified. Deacon was traumatized after a dog bit him in 2017, so if Breezy was roaming the room, he wouldn’t even enter the building.
“Deacon, let’s look around us,” Jewell said she’d say to him when he was anxious. “Does everybody else look scared? No! That’s a clue that we’re safe.”
Now, at age 8, Deacon feeds Breezy treats and takes her for walks during his sessions.
Most clients hear about Kids on the Point through word-of-mouth. A child is often brought over when it becomes apparent that he or she may be dealing with a cognitive or intellectual struggle that’s impacting academic learning, daily living activities, behavior, etc. That’s usually a sign of a deeper issue, said Hanna and Jewell, and they have to tackle the issue at the root.
Problem-solving is the name of the game — and games are incorporated into much of the learning and development. Arts & crafts, music, active playtime and cooking, are all part of the process. Because Kids on the Point is exclusively private-pay (with the exception of Tricare Insurance and San Diego Regional Center from birth to 3 years old), the staff has the opportunity to make in-home visits, take the kids on field trips and go for walks with them.
In the case of Eli, Bradi explained: “We wanted Eli to feel confident and safe going out into the community. We didn’t just want him to do things in the office. We wanted this whole-person growth (to take place).”
Each child is different, so each day is different. There are plans for what a child should do on a particular visit, but if they come in “out of sorts,” that’s OK, too. “We meet them where they’re at,” Hanna insisted.
“During the school year, what’s kind of funny is kids come in, and you talk to them about how their day was, and it’s never about academics. It’s always about what happened on the playground and who wouldn’t let me play ... so-and-so has a new best friend, now they don’t let me play ... so we just problem-solve and role-play a ton of that stuff here.”
“And that’s where kids aren’t being supported at school,” Jewell chimed in. “Recess is the teacher’s time off, right? That’s where they (kids) need support the most because it’s unstructured play.”
Jewell and Hanna said they provide free in-service lectures at preschools to educate teachers on how to identify red flags that indicate when it would be appropriate to refer a child to OT. Additionally, they collaborate with speech and vision therapists, and others in the professional network.
Following up with Eli, Bradi said his confidence growing comfortable around food has transcended to other aspects of his life, such as relationships. “Eli is a kid who didn’t want anything to do with other kids, at all,” she said, “but now, for the first time in his life, there are two boys at the Point he will work with … they actually built a friendship.”