Shining Stars: Special-needs kids put on talent show

Photo by Tori Boone

Photo by Tori Boone

Charles Mitchell Rowe lies on his belly and strains to lift his head. Lynda Reagan sings the "Five Little Monkeys" song and the 12-year-old breaks into a big grin. Reagan cheers him on.

Rowe, who has cerebral palsy, has received physical therapy from Reagan since age 4. Recently, he participated in a talent show presented by Reagan's patients.

Talents ranged from joke telling to riding an adaptive tricycle. Rowe demonstrated how he could operate a toy by pressing a large button with his hand.

"The children I see usually never get a chance to perform in front of their parents or grandparents," said Reagan, who's worked as a physical therapist with special needs children for more than two decades.

"They don't typically do things at school like plays or chorus or bands or sports. I just wanted them to display their talents or skills they've worked on."

The event, which took place at the Social Circle Theater, featured nine families, all from Reagan's private physical therapy practice, Step In Time Therapy. Reagan, who also works as a physical therapist for the Newton County School System, said this is the seventh year she's hosted the talent show.

The show ended with two songs sung by her patients -- Heather Munson belted out "Hero," made popular by Mariah Carey, and Brittany Johnson, 17, shared her rendition of Molly Cyrus' "The Climb."

Brittany's mother, Tracey Johnson, said Reagan has worked with her daughter on and off since she was 3 months old and they consider Reagan a part of the family. Reagan takes Brittany on outings when she meets physical therapy goals and the talent show is a highlight in the teenager's year, said her mother.

"Brittany really looks forward to it because it's the one time she gets to be the center of attention," Johnson said.

Reagan operates Step In Time Therapy out of a 180-year-old restored Oxford house, passed down five generations in her husband's family. The location offers a home-like atmosphere which can be comforting to children who fear medical facilities, Reagan said.

After earning her degree in physical therapy from the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, the Newton High School graduate worked at Grady and Children's Healthcare of Atlanta. She started her business in Newton County after becoming a mother.

"I knew I loved kids so I was interested in pediatrics all along," Reagan said.

Working with special needs children allows Reagan to establish long-term relationships with her patients, unlike the typical physical therapist who may see patients for several months or weeks.

Lifelong physical challenges require extended treatment, Reagan said.

"I try my best to see what kinds of things they're going to encounter and how I can help them with all parts of their lives," she said.

Reagan said her job can sometimes have its sad moments, as she watches families cope with the challenges of caring for children with disabilities.

"But we rejoice in the small things and know that these children have special blessings to bring," she said.