Bacharach Institute for Rehabilitation in Pomona, NJ
Mar 11

Learning Disability or Central Auditory Processing Disorder?

Sometimes children with a learning disability behave or respond like they have hearing loss. The pathways to the brain are not well developed in children, and sometimes their behavior can be misunderstood as not paying attention or not following directions when they can’t follow along with the rules of the classroom.


Elena Ballezzi, Au.D., (right) Bacharach audiologist and director of Bacharach’s Somers Point Hearing Center specializes in the evaluation and treatment of children with central auditory processing disorder. According to Elena, a person diagnosed with central auditory processing disorder does not process information correctly. Elena explained, “We not only hear with our ears, but also with our brain. The ears and the brain need to work as a unit for the successful transmission of information. The ears are a vessel that connects to the brain and everything needs to be functioning smoothly for us to process sound normally.”


Children with this condition frequently have trouble paying attention and remembering information presented to them orally. They often have problems carrying out multi-step directions, poor listening skills and low academic performance.


“Patients with central auditory processing disorder need more time to process information and usually have difficulty with reading comprehension, spelling and vocabulary.”


Elena works very closely with families’ doctors to come up with an accurate diagnosis. It can be very complex because, many times, children with central auditory processing disorder also have other learning-related issues.


Children over the age of seven are good candidates to be tested for central auditory processing disorder. A complete hearing evaluation is conducted to determine that there is nothing medically wrong such as an ear infection or another condition that could be treated medically. In addition, Elena conducts a battery of five tests that are presented orally using a CD, each focusing on a different area. These tests help to determine listening readiness and speech skills.


Based on the results of the testing, Elena determines the issue and develops a treatment program. Many times, she recommends preferential seating in the classroom. Other times, she suggests the use of personal technology such as having the teacher wear a lapel microphone linked to a student’s headset. There are also game applications that the child can use on smart devices such as the iPhone, iPad or Kindle to improve their skill set. 


Elena said, “We work to train the patient’s auditory skills and try to teach them strategies to better function in the classroom and at home. Frequently we see dramatic improvement in just a few years’ time.”


Bacharach Hearing Center specializes in the following areas:

Complete evaluation services 

·         Auditory brainstem evoked response testing 

·         Otoacoustic emissions testing (OAE) 

·         Custom hearing aids 

·         State-of-the-art digital technology 

·         Assistive listening devices 

·         Central auditory processing evaluations 

·         Computerized balance testing 

·         Education and support groups

Mar 11

Bacharach Offers Specialized Treatment for Pelvic Floor Dysfunction

Bacharach Offers Specialized Treatment for Pelvic Floor Dysfunction

Pain, weakness, tightness or spasm of the pelvic floor muscles or surrounding pelvic area can be classified as pelvic floor dysfunction, a disorder affecting both women and men that can result in problems with bowel and bladder control, prolapse of the organs and tissues within the pelvic cavity, and loss of muscle tone.


Several factors may contribute to pelvic floor dysfunction. Sometimes after childbirth, due to the PFM being stretched, affecting the support they normally provide to the bladder, uterus or rectum, discomfort, pain or prolapse can result.  Abdominal surgery can result in problems with abdominal or hip muscles, ligaments or connective tissue, which often leads to pain in the pelvic floor muscle. In addition, pelvic floor dysfunction can also be caused by weakness of the pelvic floor muscles or muscle spasms. Interstitial Cystitis, or inflammation of the bladder wall or lining of the bladder, fibromyalgia, neurological disorders (stroke or muscular dystrophy) can also cause pelvic floor dysfunction. 


Bacharach’s Lynne Smejkal, PT specializes in treating pelvic floor dysfunction. When a patient visits Lynne, she does an extensive evaluation, including a complete medical history as well as a thorough muscular skeletal examination to determine their general mobility, strength and function as well as their pelvic floor muscle strength. The treatment plan is individualized for each patient and is determined by the results of the evaluation.


If a patient exhibits weakness of the pelvic floor muscles, Lynne will develop a series of strengthening exercises involving the core area, which includes pelvic floor muscles, abdominal muscles and hip muscles. Additional treatments include EMG biofeedback and muscle reeducation.


For an individual with pelvic floor pain, pain in the pelvic area or surrounding tissues or pain with intercourse, muscle and tissue mobilization techniques can help relax and stretch the areas of discomfort, enhancing pain relief and improved function.


She explained, “There are a variety of exercises for the hips, abs, and pelvic floor muscles that are incorporated into each therapy program. I can also evaluate the electrical activity of muscles through the use of an internal sensor, to determine how well and for how long they are contracting.   Patients find this visual and auditory feedback extremely effective.” 


Most of Lynne’s patients see improvement and are happy with their results. Lynne stresses the importance of helping her patients to regain their confidence, saying, “It is gratifying when my patients see the positive results of their therapy as they are so appreciative. As these are often personal issues, I work hard to make people comfortable so they feel they can talk to me.”

Mar 11

Spinal Cord Yoga Increases Mind-Body Awareness

With 25 years of experience working at Bacharach, Becky McGill (right), PT and co-coordinator for the Spinal Cord Injury Program and coordinator of the Spinal Cord Injury Support Group recently organized a yoga class for spinal cord patients. She was motivated to start the class because of the work of Matthew Sanford, a paraplegic who strongly believes in the power of mind-body awareness. 


Becky shared, “Even if you can’t move your legs, you can still live in your whole body and yoga increases awareness of the body. I was drawn to this quote that sums up Mr. Sanford’s philosophy: ‘It is not like my paralyzed body has stopped talking to my mind – it’s changed its voice. It speaks more softly and with fewer words. Part of my healing process has been to listen to it.’ Yoga makes the body more in tune and allows participants to embrace their entire body even if it doesn’t work the way it used to.”


Becky found a local yoga instructor who was interested in working with those with disabilities to come to Bacharach for the weekly class. She explained, “Krista Smart, Bacharach physical therapist, and Stockton physical therapy students came to help patients get into their poses. Some stayed in their chairs and others were on the mats – they did whatever they could. People loved the focus on breathing, mind-body awareness, relaxation, posture and body alignment.” 


Yoga makes people feel more comfortable in their bodies and patients commented that they felt really good to be focusing on the parts of their body that are generally neglected and ignored. Becky continued, “This tends to be a high-pain population. The flexibility, focus and balance of yoga actually helped some participants lessen their pain.”


The yoga program provided spinal cord patients with great exercise and was very therapeutic, both physically and emotionally. Becky said, “The participants really enjoyed the class and had a wonderful time. It turned out to be a positive experience for them to get out of their wheelchairs and move and stretch, but it also provided an opportunity to socialize. Yoga is about honoring your body and abilities and increasing body awareness. The exercises that were part of the class helped with strengthening, circulation, the digestive system and respiratory relaxation.”


Becky also runs a monthly support group for spinal cord injury patients on the third Thursday of every month. As part of the group there are also activities such as a seated Zumba class. Becky said, “This was a high energy and fun activity. The instructor also offers classes at a local intergenerational center, so our patients can enjoy Zumba there as well. Some of our patients attend twice a week.”


For more information, call 609-748-5411 or e-mail Becky at

Mar 11

Stockton College Students Bring Bacharach Garden to Life

Stockton College Students Bring Bacharach Garden to Life

Macy Schwartz, Peter Walsh and Zoey Dodson, Stockton College students, have created a renewable, wheelchair-accessible vegetable garden at Bacharach. The enterprising students were taking a service-learning course called The Science of Gardening.  As part of the course, each student in the class was required to spend 30 hours volunteering in a community garden and keep a journal of their experience.


Macy, Peter and Zoey decided to go one step further. As they had a shared interest in physical and occupational therapy, they approached Suzanne Grassi, a recreation specialist, about volunteering at Bacharach. They thought it would be therapeutic for Bacharach patients to work in a garden and wanted to explore the possibility of creating one that would be accessible to everyone. They learned that there used to be a garden at Bacharach and were invited to spruce it up and turn it into a raised, wheelchair-accessible garden to ensure that all Bacharach patients would have the ability to become involved if they were interested.


Macy shared, “It took a lot of work to gather all of the materials we needed. We spoke with Home Depot in Absecon and they generously donated the wood, screws and dirt for the project. They also cut the wood for us and lent us lots of tools.” The students used stone on the bottom of the garden for drainage and cedar wood to withstand the weather.


Last semester, the students built the garden and filled it with dirt. Macy continued, “Bob’s Garden Center, located in Egg Harbor Township, offered to donate some of the vegetables that we are planning to plant this spring. We are going to plant hearty vegetables like kale, lettuce, beets and tomatoes that do well in New Jersey.”


Macy, Peter and Zoe are pleased with the way to garden has turned out. Macy continued, “The day we did most of the work it was actually snowing. We really learned by doing.” The students are planning to oversee the tending of the garden for now and are working to coordinate with next year’s service-learning program so the project will be ongoing.

Mar 11

Uniting Athletes in the Open Water: Paddling and Open Water Swimming for Athletes with Spinal Injuries

Uniting Athletes in the Open Water: Paddling and Open Water Swimming for Athletes with Spinal Injuries

Ocean advocate Bruckner Chase focuses on motivating individuals to protect the waters around them. With a personal mission to positively impact how we feel, think and act towards our oceans, Bruckner offers creative programs to get people involved with the water to raise awareness of his cause.


Bruckner (right) and his wife Michelle Evans-Chase launched the Ocean City Swim Club several years ago to create a safe, positive opportunity for people to get into the water. Their passion for the water has taken them from England to Alaska and many bodies of water in between. Through swimming, surfing and paddling, they want to create opportunities for others to have a positive experience in the water. They work with athletes ranging from those training for a triathlon or attempting the English Channel to those learning to do a flip turn.


Bruckner and Michelle run open water swimming programs throughout the summer. The year they started, they had 35 people join them over the course of two months; last year, more than 600 people joined them in the ocean.


As the Swim Club was growing, Bruckner had the opportunity to become a global advisor on open water swimming to Special Olympics International. He also became a technical advisor for the World Games in Athens, Greece where he oversaw the inaugural 1,500-meter open water swim for Special Olympic athletes from around the world.


In 2012, Bruckner was approached by his sister-in-law Becky McGill, a Bacharach PT who works with spinal-injured patients. Becky encouraged Bruckner and Michelle to consider creating a post-therapy swimming and paddling program for athletes with spinal cord injuries. Bruckner utilized his experience as a competitive swimmer, ocean lifeguard and swim coach as well as the knowledge he gained from his work with challenged athletes to develop a program that would allow Bacharach patients to take part in aquatic sports in the open waters around them.


Over the winter of 2013, Bruckner, Michelle, Becky and a handful of new athletes started indoors with pool time at the Ocean City Community Center Pool using equipment from FINIS Swimming that was originally developed for elite, competitive swimmers and lifeguards. 


Bruckner shared, “We use snorkels that masters swimmers use in training, which allow our athletes with severe physical injuries to breathe with their face in the water while maximizing their forward progress in the water. The new swimmers have the opportunity to focus on balancing their stroke without having to turn their neck or rotate their bodies to breathe – movements that can be difficult for those with spinal cord injuries.”


Within a few weeks of getting in the pool, some of the Bacharach athletes were doing workouts similar to those of their seasoned teammates, just a lane over, at the Ocean City Swim Club. 


When the back bay water warmed up last spring, Bruckner, Becky and Michelle finally had the opportunity to get back to the environment they love: the open water. Bruckner explained, “We began going to Beesley’s Point, a calm area with no waves. We utilized portable rubber mats to stretch out across the shorter sections of sand and used a wheelchair to take our swimmers right to the water. We could then help the new open water athletes transfer on to prone paddle boards – the same type used by lifeguards for rescues and long distance races. Once on the boards, the paddlers were able to move forward using their hands with virtually no limit as to where they could go.”



When the director of the Upper Township EMS Squad became aware of the program, he began dispatching an EMS crew every Sunday to assist in transferring athletes in and out of the water while also providing an additional layer of safety. Local lifeguards from the Upper Township Beach Patrol often help by keeping an eye on the water and the other beach patrons. Off-duty South Jersey ocean guards and coaches are also huge contributors as

paddling and swimming partners in this Ocean City Swim Club and community Unified Team.


Bruckner adds, “We have incredible volunteers, Upper Township staff, and even the Upper Township Mayor who have helped us make the pilot year of the program a huge success. At the end of 2013, the Unified Team Paddling and Swimming Program was also recognized by the World Open Water Swimming Association as one of the top 15 offerings in the world focused on getting people into the water.


The Unified Team program is run under the non-profit Bruckner Chase Ocean Positive, Inc., and there is no fee to participate for those with severe physical challenges. Interested swimmers and paddlers just need to get to the venues, and Bruckner says they are working to help with transportation by seeking volunteer drivers who are part of the Ocean City Swim Club. The indoor pool program runs year round, and the Ocean City Aquatics Center is fully accessible.  There is a lift in the pool and all participants are in the water together.


The ocean programs take place from roughly mid-June to August on Sundays, and the times rotate from a.m. to p.m. to utilize the best tide conditions. For more information, visit or e-mail Bruckner at For more information about Bruckner’s other activities around the world, visit

Mar 11

Physician Profile: Dr. Ross Berlin

Ross Berlin, M.D., FAAPMR, Medical Director of the Stroke Program at Bacharach, began working with stroke patients when he first started at Bacharach 19 years ago. As a doctor of physical medicine, or physiatrist, Dr. Berlin (right) directs the therapy team’s plan of care, which is individualized for each patient.


Bacharach offers the most advanced Level 1 stroke rehab in the region and stroke patients make faster and more complete recoveries that consistently exceed the national benchmark. Dr. Berlin explained, “The aggressiveness and thoroughness exhibited by our entire medical staff is crucial to our success when addressing the many medical and surgical areas that go along with a stroke.”


At Bacharach, stroke survivors are surrounded by a comprehensive team that includes a physiatrist, rehab nurse, physical therapist, occupation therapist, speech therapist, recreation therapist, dietitian, psychologist and a case manager. 


Dr. Berlin strongly believes in Bacharach’s program and puts his heart and soul into his work, saying, “I spend so much time here that I consider this my other home. I have always been impressed by the dedication and longevity of the Bacharach team. Even though I have been here for almost 20 years, I still consider myself new because there are so many therapists and nurses that have been here longer.”


A strong advocate for prevention, Dr. Berlin urges people to avoid medical risk factors such as diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol levels and smoking. According to Dr. Berlin, “The stroke that was prevented is the ultimate rehabilitation. There are numerous important preventative measures that are well established that everyone should be aware of. One very critical measure is exercise and weight loss and I strongly recommend daily exercise as a part of a healthy lifestyle.”


Dr. Berlin received his medical degree from New York Medical College.

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