Gym Jam

As a student in Alvernia’s occupational therapy program, Mary Strausser MSOT ’08 did not anticipate a career that centered around children.

“I remember telling my classmates I had no interest in working with kids,” she recalled. “I thought I’d be perfectly happy with adults.”

Fast forward 15 years, and Strausser, now 38, has changed her tune. Completely.

“I can’t imagine now not working with kids,” she said. “It opened up my clinical world in a completely different way.”

Strausser, with two business partners, owns two franchises of Gym-Jam Therapeutics, Inc., a learning center serving children with autism and other special needs. The facilities offer services including applied behavioral analysis (ABA), speech therapy, occupational therapy, social skills groups, and parent training.

The centers, which accept insurance and medical assistance, are located in Pottsville, the home of Alvernia’s recently opened Pottsville CollegeTowne, and Frackville, both in Schuylkill County. They serve children and families from a wide geographical area.

Strausser’s change of heart regarding her career path began nearly a decade ago when she had the first of her four children, a son who suffered from medical difficulties and experienced some developmental challenges.

Locating services for him was not easy, as resources near her home were sparse at that time. When she eventually succeeded, she was delighted with the benefits her son experienced from the therapies he received.

“I saw the proof that getting good quality services early on can change a child’s life, and the family’s life,” she said.


Gym Jam
“We live in a small, close-knit community. A lot of time there’s nothing for us to do but take care of each other.”

When the opportunity to open a facility that could help other children arose, Strausser enlisted two colleagues and jumped at the chance.

“It was a way to give back,” she said. “We live in a small, close-knit community. A lot of time there’s nothing for us to do but take care of each other.”

The centers currently serve about 220 children, with many more prospective clients on wait lists.

“We get multiple calls a week from people looking for services for their kids,” Strausser said. “We’re constantly trying to develop new programs and increase our staffing to better serve our clients.”

The Gym-Jam staff works with area school districts and Schuylkill County’s early intervention program to identify students needing services. The therapies provided vary depending on need, as does the length of time a child remains in the program.

Often, Strausser explained, the goal is to help a child prepare to transition into a school classroom. Once the child is able to be in school, Gym-Jam therapists teach school staff the skills they need to help the child succeed.

“We’ll remain with the child as long as necessary, then fade back as they adjust to the classroom,” she said.

Gym-Jam also partners with Pottsville CollegeTowne psychology students, who assist at the centers.

“That partnership has just been invaluable for our community,” Strausser said.

She looks forward to additional opportunities to partner with Alvernia, with an eye to expanding Gym-Jam into Berks County.

“We’ll see what happens,” she said. “Alvernia was a wonderful experience for me, and I’m excited to be reconnected and working with people there.”

Occupational Therapy (Post-Baccalaureate)

Degree Type:
Master of Science
Occupational Therapy (Post-Baccalaureate)
  • Reading Campus
Program Type:
Credit Hours: