Tisha Scherr

Alexandra Anderson does physical therapy with Tisha Scherr of Sunny Days Pediatric Therapy.

Physical therapist Tisha Scherr gets kids moving, building strength in their little muscles when they have physical development delays.

The Gilbert Ph.D. also assists children with difficulties in coordination and balance. Parents marvel at how she helps their children achieve milestones like crawling, walking or throwing a ball.

At 43, Scherr has found a career that is both challenging and personally rewarding. Her home-visiting service, Sunny Days Pediatric Therapy, specializes in pediatric physical therapy from birth to age 21.

Scherr also plans to open an injury prevention clinic for all ages, a dream of hers since high school.

She said of her 15-year-old pediatrics practice, “I love helping kids and seeing the growth and the changes. You can go from not walking to walking, all kinds of movements. I feel like I’m making a big difference.”

Scherr has worked with Aaron Smith for two and a half years since his discharge from the neonatal intensive care unit at Phoenix Children’s Hospital. Ryan Smith, a Mesa church pastor, said his son was diagnosed with an unknown neurological condition. “Tisha was assigned to us and one of our major goals was to get him moving, maybe crawling or rolling over when he came home. He didn’t really do any of those things.”

Smith said, “Tisha has been able to accomplish a lot. He just turned three and can now sit on his own unassisted. He rolls all over the place and is starting to attempt to stand.”

Smith said that Scherr has enormous patience and takes her cues from his son. “There have been times where he has obviously not wanted to participate. So, she steps back a little bit, sees what he is willing to do today and then focuses on that. She knows when to push and when to get the most out of him.”

When doctors diagnosed her son, Carson, with brain abnormalities at 20 weeks, no one knew what to expect, said Courtney Roberts, a stay-at-home mom in San Tan Valley. “They said that he may not be able to breathe on his own or walk or crawl. At 3 years old, he’s done amazingly well. It’s just taken him a little longer to learn things. He’s meeting his milestones.”

She credits Scherr for her son’s progress. “She just thinks outside the box and is super detail oriented,” said Roberts, a mother of four. “She’ll look for the tiniest details to help my son.”

Scherr belongs to Temple Emanuel with her two sons, Elijah, 14, and Micah, 9. She converted to Judaism in 2007. “I went out seeking religion and out of all the religions, I found that I identified with Judaism most.”

She is now expanding into a new sideline of helping people avoid injury, hoping to open a storefront clinic. “I want to work on educating individuals on proper techniques to prevent injury when they are working out.”

An Arizona native, Scherr shared she became interested in athletic training as early as 15 years old. “I was working on the sidelines for injury prevention at Dobson High School in Mesa and I went into college with the mindset of being an athletic trainer.”

The daughter of a high school football player, Scherr trained alongside a sports-team doctor and school provost at Arizona State University. After graduating, he suggested she pursue an advanced degree in physical therapy for athletes.

Scherr earned her doctorate in physical therapy from A.T. Still University, an osteopathic medical school in Mesa.

In one of her clinicals, she worked with children and that changed everything. She grew to love the specialty and took many continuing education classes.

Scherr recalled one bright little girl, Sophia, with cerebral palsy who began her physical therapy at two months. “Her family was told to abort the pregnancy, that she had no chance of having a good life. But this child, we went from not having any head control to being able to sit, to crawl and now, at 5 years old, she’s walking with a walker.”

Scherr also worked with a 5-year-old girl with Down syndrome. “She was already walking when I started seeing her but her balance was off and her strength was very low. Now she’s 20 and we’re doing strength training and she’s winning medals in the Special Olympics.”

Scherr said she is “giving families hope that they don’t have to settle on a condition. There are definitely lots of changes that can be made as long as you try.” JN

For more information, contact Tisha Scherr at 480-221-2784 or tisha@sunnydayspediatric.com.

Ellen Braunstein is a freelance writer based in Chicago.