Pediatric Occupational Therapy

Cynthia Cramer Enjoys Working With Young Children

unnamedStaff photo by Vicki Rock

Cynthia Cramer is an early intervention therapist, meaning she works with children from birth through age 3.

Posted: Sunday, April 19, 2015 10:01 pm


When people ask Cynthia Cramer how can young children need occupational therapy, she asks them what is a child’s occupation.

“Playing, eating, possibly dressing themselves,” she said. “These are skills they need.”

Occupational therapy is designed to help children and adults acquire, or regain, the skills they need to perform the activities of daily life. When a child shows delays in mastering typical activities, the occupational therapist may be called in. April is National Occupational Therapy Month.  Cynthia’s website is

Cramer, 52, of Somerset, has been a contracted provider with Bedford-Somerset Mental Health and Mental Retardation since 1995. She works in both counties and averages 12 to 19 clients a week.

She is an early intervention therapist, meaning she works with children from birth through age 3. They have to have a developmental delay of 25 percent or more to qualify. The children may have Down’s syndrome, cerebral palsy, a seizure disorder, spina bifida, a diagnosis of autistic spectrum disorder, failure to thrive or other developmental delays.

“Occupational therapists teach the families how to help children become independent,” she said. “We help children learn to help themselves.”

She loves her job and said that the most challenging thing is putting children into positions that stress them out.

“I know deep down in my heart it is benefiting the child,” she said. “I’ve never had a child not like me — eventually. The difficult part is having to convince the parents that it has to be done. It’s a lot like ourselves — why do we have to be on the exercise bike? Because we need it. The children are young enough that they won’t remember it. That is one of the biggest advantages. The pain will go away and they won’t remember it.”

Cramer likes seeing the children that she worked with after they’ve become older. She recently talked with a teenager who has Down syndrome whom she worked with as a young child. He didn’t remember her, but she was delighted to see how far he has come.

She is originally from Central City and always knew that she wanted to go into the medical field. When she worked as a therapeutic activities aide at a nursing home in the early 1980s she knew that occupational therapy field was her goal. She earned her degree from the University of Pittsburgh.

“God has given me the skill and talent with my hands to do the things children need,” she said. “The most rewarding thing is seeing an accomplishment, as small as a child eating a solid food for the first time.”

She works a lot with Amish in Somerset County and Old Order Mennonites in Bedford County. Those communities know who she is and that she will help their children.

“My work is on the floor, I get down to the child,” she said. “I’m extremely flexible.”

Ashley Ohler of Lambertsville said that Cramer worked with her older son, Bryson, now 2, who had torticallis, a condition in which the head persistently turns to one side. Cramer helped him strengthen his neck muscles. She now works with Ohler’s younger son, Gabriel, 10 months, who was born with spina bifida.

“She really does such a good job,” Ohler said. “As a parent of a child with special needs, my goal is to help Gabriel be the best he can be and to go as far as possible. That is her goal too. Gabriel needs a lot of special care. Cynthia is so good at including Bryson while she is working with Gabriel so he doesn’t feel left out. He likes it when she comes.”

Jessica Sims of Alum Bank, Bedford County, said that Cramer was the hope that kept them going after her son suffered a severe prenatal stroke.

“She has been working with Qunicy since he was 5 weeks old,” she said. “She has been extremely helpful, especially in the beginning days. Children’s Hospital (of Pittsburgh) told us he wouldn’t survive past 4 months and he will be 2 years old at the end of this month. Cynthia said she knew of some children who didn’t survive past 4 months and some who did and she felt that Qunicy would. He has exceeded our expectations by leaps and bounds. He can’t walk, but he can sit up independently. He is progressing every day.”

Cramer herself was a therapy patient. Four years ago, she had a brain tumor on the nerve that controls balance. She lost her hearing in her left ear. She then had to have a total knee replacement.

“I was so driven that I got back to work in four weeks each time,” she said. “I don’t like not being able to give children therapy.”

She is married to Dane Cramer. She has three children from her first marriage: Heather Saylor, Bethel Park; Sarah Clementi and Andrew Bassler, both in college in Knoxville, Tennessee. She also has four stepchildren, two grandchildren and one step-grandchild. She said that her husband and children are very supportive of her career.

She and her husband live in a house along West Union Street that is believed to be the oldest residence in Somerset. It was built between 1830 and 1850. Cramer enjoys designing home renovations. She is an avid knitter and seamstress and has made patterns for clothing. She knits hats and blankets for the neonatal intensive care unit at Conemaugh Memorial Medical Center in Johnstown. She also enjoys scrapbooking, hiking, knitting and kayaking and said she doesn’t sit still very well.

Cramer said she can go into any kindergarten and tell which children did not crawl based on how they use their hands. Crawling is believed to be needed to develop hand and upper body strength.

“I truly love my job and working with children from birth to age 3,” she said. “I feel like I make a difference. My goal is to get people to understand why early intervention is so important.”



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