Speech, Occupational and Physical Therapy Innovative Treatment Methods

Hippotherapy: Takes place in a controlled setting, using activities on and with the horse to provide sensory input that elicits adaptive responses from the patient.

Horticulture therapy: Uses an appreciation of nature and gardening in a therapy session.

Animal-assisted therapy: Utilizes animals as part of a therapy session to accelerate progress and promote the human-animal bond.

Rice Lake Community Health Foundation matching grant for NETC!

Dear Friend,

The schedule book at Nature’s Edge lists appointments by first names.  As I sit at my desk, glancing through tomorrow’s schedule name by name, a story opens around each name.  I remember the first session and the initial challenges observed, first goals, faltering steps forward, setbacks overcome and goals achieved.  Some had unintelligible speech or no speech; others wouldn’t sit still for even a few seconds or tolerate any form of sensory restriction.  Another wouldn’t take a bath and wasn’t potty-trained at five years old.  One is struggling to recover from a devastating accident; two others were limited by the inability to implement social skills.  So many challenges . . . so much progress, and yet more ground to cover.

Many of our patients would not have achieved what they have accomplished without receiving therapy at Nature’s Edge, where intensive treatment provided by licensed therapists is blended with nature and animals.  Parents and caregivers often tell us that they had tried traditional therapy for their loved ones, but were unable to achieve progress until they came to Nature’s Edge.  However, many of our patients would not have been able to afford therapy at Nature’s Edge without scholarship help.   It’s not because we are more expensive than other facilities; therapy at Nature’s Edge actually costs less than at other clinics.  It’s because for most families, we are an out-of-network provider.  It’s because of the current healthcare climate and the nature of coverage for disabilities – which are neither injury nor illness but rather present at birth.  It’s because finances are tight for families with loved ones with disabilities.  For many patients, receiving therapy at Nature’s Edge is possible only because of the generosity and concern of other people.

At Nature’s Edge, we see day by day that our intensive, one-on-one therapy sessions, interaction with nature and our animals, and the homelike atmosphere of the ranch, dramatically accelerate our patients’ progress, the majority of whom are children.  Please accept our invitation to share in the joy of obstacles overcome, goals achieved, of increased living skills and greater independence for our patients.  Consider making a matching donation to impact the life of one or several of our patients.  Your generosity is a gift of essential life skills and hope for the future!

Grateful for your partnership,

Becky Payne, MATCCC/SLP/HPCS – Director


*Donation checks can be made out to “Rice Lake Community Health Foundation” with “Nature’s Edge” in the memo and mailed to us at 2523 14 3/4 Ave., Rice Lake, WI 54868 or you can donate here:

Matching Grant for Therapy Scholarships Awarded to Nature’s Edge

Rice Lake Community Health Foundation awards therapy scholarships to Nature’s Edge through a matching grant


Dear Friends,

I don’t need to tell you that these are trying times. But even as the Covid-19 pandemic impacts everyday life for all of us, there are still reasons to smile. At Nature’s Edge Therapy Center, we see smiles every day as we continue to provide essential speech and occupational therapy services for our patients and their families, even as we meet the challenges presented by Covid-19.

We see the smile on a patient’s face when he reaches his goal of tying his shoes all by himself after he had told us in frustration during his first occupational therapy session, “I will never be able to tie my shoes.” We see the smiles a family shares when, thanks to speech therapy and working with our wonderful animals, their loved one goes from being unable to make eye contact and introduce himself to not only being willing to introduce himself, but ready to initiate the conversation and then chat up a storm. Smiles happen at home and school too, as progress is continued through parent and teacher support. Successful therapy brings many smiles, even if these days the smiles sometimes happen behind a mask.

It has always been true that because of limitations in insurance coverage, not being able to afford insurance, or other difficult financial situations, many of our patients’ families could not afford treatment at Nature’s Edge without therapy scholarship assistance. This is even truer today as many in our community struggle with the financial consequences of the pandemic. And although Nature’s Edge remained open when schools and other therapy clinics closed, our inability to hold fundraisers this year due to the pandemic has made a big hole in our fundraising efforts.

But we have good news! Nature’s Edge has recently once again been awarded a matching grant for scholarship assistance from the Rice Lake Community Health Foundation. Scholarships such as those supported by the Foundation enable us to provide exceptional therapy to patients and their families who would otherwise be unable to afford it. The Foundation will match our donors’ contributions at $1.50 for each dollar, up to a total amount of $30,000. So when Nature’s Edge raises $20,000 from donor contributions, the Foundation will match each dollar at $1.50 and return $50,000 to Nature’s Edge to be used for scholarship assistance.

And there is even more good news. A private trust has stepped up to match that same $20,000 at $1.50 for each dollar and donate up to an additional $30,000 as a Generosity Pledge. This means that each $1 you donate this year toward patient scholarships becomes $4. Donor contributions totaling $20,000 will become $80,000!

You can help us keep the smiles coming at Nature’s Edge. Your generous donation will be applied exclusively to scholarship assistance. If you would like more information about Nature’s Edge or our therapy scholarship program, please call our office at 715-859-6670. Please visit our website to donate at; or mail us payment to make checks payable to the Rice Lake Community Health Foundation to ensure our match.

On behalf of all of us at Nature’s Edge, thank you for your support. We wish you and your family health, safety and happiness. Together, we can overcome all things.

With gratitude,

Becky L. Payne MATCCC/SLP/HPCS – Director

Using Visual Aids to Support Daily Routines

Using Visuals Aids to Support Daily Routines


Have you ever wondered what a visual schedule is or a first then board? These visual supports can be used as a way to communicate with children who have difficulty understanding or communicating their needs. They support communication between parents, caregivers, and children and are useful in promoting social interaction, language, and positive behaviors. Examples of visual supports include communication boards, first then boards, or visual schedules. Children who have difficulty communicating may experience frustration in their daily routines. Visuals supports are useful in promoting direction following, completion of daily routines, communication of needs and requests, and positive social interaction.

A “first then board” can be used as a behavioral support or to teach new skills.  These boards generally include a non-preferred task followed by a more preferred task. A child who does not prefer bath time may have a board that includes bath first then story time.

Visual schedules are used to help children predict their daily routines or decrease rigid behaviors. They help promote new or familiar routines depending on how they are used. They can be used to support daily routines at home and school such as following directions, taking a bath or brushing teeth. Visuals also help communicate boundaries or expected behaviors. For example, a stop sign could be used to set the expectation that one should stay within the designated area or building.  Visual supports are useful in building communication skills, independence with daily routines, and social interaction.



Loring,Whitney F. M. (2011, March). Visual Supports and Autism Spectrum Disorders. Autism Speaks.


Summer 2020 Group Updates

2020 Summer Group Programs: Extended Registration

“Learning Social Skills on the Ranch “

Ages: 7-12, register by July 16

  • Dates: July 21,23,28, and 30
  • Time: 10:00-11:30 AM

Ages: 13-18, register by July 30

  • Dates: August 4, 6,11,13
  • Time: 10:00-11:30 AM

 “Stable Life Skills”

Register by July 21

Ages: 18-30 years

Dates:  July 28, 31, and August 4,7,11, and 14.

Time: 10-11:30 AM

*Register for our summer groups by clicking on “forms” located under the “About Us” tab

What is Sensory Integration?

What is Sensory Integration?

Sensory integration is the term used to define how individuals receive and process information from the sensory systems.  The sensory systems include vision, auditory, taste, smell, tactile (touch), proprioceptive (sense of joint position), and vestibular (balance and movement). Integration of the sensory system is important for completing daily self-care routines including communication, eating, toileting, bathing, dressing, socializing, and completing household management.  Effective integration of the sensory systems promotes appropriate emotional regulation and coordination of motor systems.

Children who experience difficulty with sensory integration may demonstrate a variety of responses such as difficulty completing daily routines, socializing, attending to tasks, and navigating environmental demands. A child who demonstrates signs and symptoms of impaired sensory integration may be referred by a doctor for occupational therapy evaluation and treatment. Following an evaluation, an occupational therapist may adjust their sensory based intervention approaches depending on the underlying causes. Therapeutic activities may include the implementation of a sensory diet to provide appropriate sensory input throughout the day for improved engagement and independence in daily routines. A sensory diet is a daily routine in which a child uses various inputs such as movement, touch, or proprioceptive input to regulate emotional and behavioral responses depending on the time of day or environment. Sensory based strategies are designed to promote improved emotional regulation, attention, and behavioral responses throughout the day.  If you have questions about sensory integration contact us at .


American Occupational Therapy Association. ( 2017). Frequently Asked Questions About Ayres Sensory Integration. [PDF  File]. Bethesda, MD. Retrived from

Summer Group Programs Update

The first official day of Summer is June 20 when the summer solstice occurs, but it is already starting to warm up and feel like summer.  Nature’s Edge is currently planning to hold summer groups with special considerations in light of COVID-19 to ensure the safety of our participants and staff. We are following CDC guidelines including sticking to small groups, screening for symptoms, frequent hand washing, wearing face shields, and distancing between participants. We have extended previous registration deadlines.

“Meet Me at the Reading Tree”: Struggling readers will participate in outdoor activities around the ranch including visits to the reading tree focused on hearing, decoding words, recognizing sight words, understanding word and text meanings, and reading with expression.

  • Ages:5-9
  • Cost/dates: $225 for 6 sessions on June 23,26,29, and July1,2,6
  • Time: 10-11:30

Active Outdoor Adventurers: Participants will engage in outdoor activities while learning about social skills including taking turns, group collaboration, and following directions.

  • Ages: 3-7
  • Cost/dates: $150 for 4 sessions on June 23, 26, 30, and July 3
  • Time: 8:00-9:00 am

‘Improving our Independence’: Participants will engage in activities designed to promote independence with age related changes including adaptive equipment education for bathing/dressing, energy conservation, kitchen/community mobility, strength and endurance, and fall prevention.

  • Ages: Adults 50 and older
  • Cost/dates: $150 for 4 sessions on June 25, July 2, 9, and 16
  • Time: 8:30-10:00 am

‘Stable’ Life Skills: Offered as two groups based on various age ranges, participants will learn various life skills activities.

Group 1: Participants will engage in ranch and nature based activities with emphasis on time management, goal planning, social participation, pre-vocational and vocational skills

  • Ages: 13-17 years
  • Cost/dates $225 for 6 sessions on June 23, 26,30, July 2,7, and 10
  • Time: 10:00 – 11:30 a.m.

Group 2: Participants who are able to complete some daily life routines and are looking to transition to group or independent living settings will learn life skills including time management, money management, goal setting, social participation, cooking, and household management.

  • Ages: 18-30 years
  • Cost/dates: $225 for 6 sessions on July 28,31, and August 4,7,11, and 14
  • Time: 10:00 – 11:30 a.m.

‘Learning Social Skills on the Ranch’: Offered as two groups based on various age ranges, participants will learn various social skills and activities. Program activities use nature and ranch animals to focus on social skills including eye contact, greetings, making requests, turn taking in conversation, expressing feelings and paying attention to nonverbal communication.

Group 1

  • Ages: 13-18 years
  • Cost/dates: $150 for 4 sessions on Jul 21,23,28, and 30
  • Time: 10-11:30 am

Group 2:

  • Ages: 7-12 years.
  • Cost/dates: $150 for 4 sessions on August 4,6,11, and 13
  • Time: 10:00 – 11:30 a.m.

‘Fun with Picky Eaters’: Participants who demonstrate difficulty with various food textures and tastes will interact with new foods and peers. Ranch animals will provide fun motivation.

  • Ages: 2-5
  • Cost/dates: $150 for five sessions on August 3, 4,5,10, and 11
  • Time: 8:00-9:00


Excited for Spring!

Excited for Spring!

All of us at Nature’s Edge Therapy Center are getting excited for spring!  While the first official day for spring is not until March 19, 2020, we are celebrating early by sharing our upcoming exciting events we have for everyone in our community!  We hope that the snow melts before this year’s spring and summer events, but we are here to celebrate with all of you snow, rain, or shine!  All events are now listed on our website under the Nature’s Edge calendar, providing additional information as needed.  If you have any questions regarding our upcoming events, please call us at 715-859-6670 or send us an e-mail!  We look forward to seeing you out at the ranch!

March 2020

  • March 9 – Special Education PTA Resource Fair and Fun Day (Eau Claire, WI)

April 2020

  • April 24 – Free Screening Day at Nature’s Edge Therapy Center

    This event is free and available to the public!  All interested individuals are encouraged to call and schedule ahead for a free 30-minute screening appointment for speech and/or occupational therapy services to address any potential concerns.  Speech pathologists provide assistance with: hearing, swallowing, feeding, stuttering, voice, articulation, assistive technology, memory, social skills, reading, and writing and language.  Occupational therapists provide assistance with: attention span, arousal level, sensory and processing skills, emotional regulation, fine and gross motor skills, upper body range of motion, pre-employment, and daily living activities.

May 2020

  • 11th Annual Disabilities Resource Fair (Monticello, MN)
  • Registration Due Date for ‘Summer Fun for Children’ group: May 20, 2020

June 2020

  • Summer Learning Groups and ‘Reminiscing on the Farm’ Program starts!
    • ‘Reminiscing on the Farm’ (ROTF) Program is hosted on our 65-acre ranch, inviting our community friends in surrounding regional senior care facilities to participate in a multi-sensory and social outing experience that awakens and elicits fond past memories to share.  ROTF is hosted every Wednesday from 10:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. starting June 3 and running through September 9.  Regional facilities are invited to contact us and schedule a date to participate!  This popular program is largely funded by a generous grant from Bader Philanthropies!
    • Summer Learning Groups Out-of-Doors:
      • “Meet Me at the Reading Tree”: Struggling readers will be actively engaged in outdoor and equine activities to focus on the tasks of hearing, decoding words, recognizing sight words, understanding word and text meanings, and reading with expression.  The barn, forest paths, river, pond, garden, – and of course, the Reading Tree will be learning sites for readers.  All participants must be accompanied by an adult and is designed for children ages 5-9.  Cost per participant: $225.  Time: 10:00 a.m. – 11:30 a.m.
      • Active Outdoor Adventurers: Outdoor hands-on learning about nature, earth, and environmental activities and play in a social group program.  Emphasis will be placed on following directions, turn taking, and collaborating to complete hands-on learning and physical activity outside.  This program is designed for children ages 3 – 7 years.  All participants must be accompanied by a parent or guardian. Cost per participant: $150. Time: 8:00 – 9:00 a.m.
      • ‘Improving our Independence’: Learn how to become more independent throughout aging. Education will be provided on energy conservation, kitchen/community mobility, and adaptive equipment for dressing/bathing to become more independent or continue our independence safely. Group members will participate in education of fall prevention and how to incorporate exercises to maintain strength or gain strength to carry over for home use while enjoying our beautiful nature environment.   This program is designed for adults ages 50 years and older. Cost per participant: $150. Time: 8:30 – 10:00 a.m.
      • ‘Stable’ Life Skills: Offered as two groups based on various age ranges, participants will learn various life skills activities.
        • Group 1: Designed for ages 13-17 years, participants will participate in ranch and nature based-activities while learning various life skill strategies to support increased independence.  Emphasis will be placed on time management, planning, goal setting, social participation, and team building skills necessary for pre-vocational and vocational skills.  All participants must be accompanied by a parent or guardian.  Cost per participant: $150. Time: 10:00 – 11:30 a.m.
        • Group 2: Designed for adults 18-30 years, participants must be able to complete some basic daily routines independently and may be looking to transition into living independently or within a group setting.  If appropriate, a parent or guardian may attend.  The group will participate in ranch and nature based-activities while learning various life skill strategies that support increased independence.  Emphasis on time management, money management, goal setting, social participation, cooking, household management, and team building skills necessary for young adults interested in working towards functional independence at home and/or vocational settings. Cost per participant: $150. Time: 10:00 – 11:30 a.m.
      • ‘Learning Social Skills on the Ranch’: Offered as two groups based on various age ranges, participants will learn various social skills and activities.
          • Group 1: Designed for ages 13-18 years.  Participants require accompaniment by a parent or guardian. Cost per participant: $150. Time: 10:00 – 11:30 a.m.
          • Group 2: Designed for ages 7-12 years.   Participants require accompaniment by a parent or guardian. Cost per participant: $150. Time: 10:00 – 11:30 a.m.
          • Outdoor activities integrated with nature and animals (including equine assisted activities) will be used to teach social skills. Eye contact, greetings, making requests, turn taking in conversation, expressing feelings and paying attention to nonverbal communication are themes that will be discussed and role-played. Homework is provided for practice in daily activities.
      • ‘Fun with Picky Eaters’: This program is designed for children ages 2 – 5 years who have difficulty with new textures and tastes.  The children must have some beginning language and ability to follow simple directives.  A parent or guardian is required to participate. This group will provide socialization and fun with foods and peers in a ranch setting with support from motivating animals during each session.  Therapy will include learning, playing, and interacting with a variety of foods and textures in a safe, rewarding environment. Cost per participant: $150. Time: 8:00 – 9:00 a.m.
  • Registration Due Date for the following Summer Learning groups: June 1, 2020
    • “Meet Me at the Reading Tree” (Dates: 6/23, 6/26, 6/29, 71, 7/2, 7/6)
    • Active Outdoor Adventurers (Dates: 6/23, 6/26, 6/30, 7/3)
    • ‘Improving our Independence’ (Dates: 6/25, 7/2, 7/9, 7/16)
    • ‘Stable’ Life Skills (Group 1) (Dates: 6/23, 6/26, 6/30, 7/2, 7/7, 7/10)

July 2020

  • Summer Learning Groups and ‘Reminiscing on the Farm’ Programs continue!
  • Registration Due Dates:
    • ‘Learning Social Skills on the Ranch’ (Group 1): July 1, 2020 (Dates: 7/21, 7/23, 7/28, 7/30)
    • ‘Stable’ Life Skills (Group 2): July 7, 2020 (Dates: 7/28, 7/31, 8/4, 8/7, 8/11, 8/14)
    •  ‘Fun with Picky Eaters’: July 13, 2020 (Dates: 8/3, 8/4, 8/5, 8/10, 8/11)
    •  ‘Learning Social Skills on the Ranch’ (Group 2): July 20, 2020 (Dates: 7/28, 7/31, 8/4, 8/7, 8/11, 8/14)

August 2020

  • Summer Learning Groups and ‘Reminiscing on the Farm’ Programs continue!

September 2020

  • Summer Learning Groups and ‘Reminiscing on the Farm’ Programs wrap-up!

Social Skills and Therapy

Social Skills and Therapy

Social interaction and engagement is a common lifelong skill that many people may take for granted.  Social skills are influenced by a variety of contexts, including geographical location, temporal dates, and societal, cultural, and familial expectations and beliefs.  Social skills can encompass written language, speech, verbal and nonverbal communication, and how we communicate and follow unwritten or unspoken expected social rules (known as pragmatics).  While many of us take for granted learning some of these social skills, there are many people who have difficulty understanding and learning the pragmatics that dictate our everyday lives and social interactions.  This often causes people that struggle to understand pragmatics to feel socially isolated, potentially further self-limiting their own social engagement and having difficulty participating in daily life activities and routines (Griswold, 2016). 

Speech and occupational therapy services help address deficits in social interaction, engagement, and overall communication to improve development of social relationships and engagement in daily life activities and routines.  Therapists work with individuals to develop social skills by utilizing strategies including: teaching how to interpret verbal and non-verbal communication, teaching how to identify and develop self-regulation of emotions, utilizing social scripts to navigate social scenarios, role-playing, teaching active listening and receptive language skills, social skills groups, and practicing turn-taking, reciprocal engagement, and joint attention (ASHA, n.d.; Foster, 2013; Griswold, 2016). If you or a loved one has trouble navigating daily routines, find communicating with others difficult, or feel confused or isolated when trying to understand another person’s perspective, you may benefit from therapy services addressing social communication and participation.  Call our office at (715)859-6670 or contact us via e-mail at to learn more about how targeted social skills development may benefit you or your loved one.

Brown and white horse with boy dressed in winter clothes standing next to horse outside in snow.

Therapy horse Callie practicing social skills with a Nature’s Edge friend.

American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA). (n.d.). Social Communication.
Foster, L. (2013). Occupational therapy’s role in mental health promotion, prevention, & intervention with children & youth: Social and emotional learning (SEL). School Mental Health Toolkit.  
Griswold, L. A. (2016). Promoting a student’s social interaction skills to enhance participation with peers. SIS Quarterly Practice Connections1(3), 4–6.