Whether your child was a preemie or born full term once the doctors actually say the words Cerebral Palsy it feels as if the whole world is starting to come crashing down on you. Parents desperately look to their doctors to make it all better, unfortunately once there has been damage to the brain doctors provide life saving measures but have very little to offer in the way of treatment or recovery. Therapists do their best to help our children, however with very large case loads they are not able to devote the same time and intensity for each child as we do here at Ability Camp.
There are now many alternative therapies for parents to choose from however our combination of Conductive Education and Hyperbaric Oxygen therapy coupled with having the consistency that can be provided by having families stay on site and support each other and their children is unique and one of the most successful programs for children with Cerebral Palsy. Ability Camp helps to teach children to become more independent not by merely providing therapy but by teaching children and their parents how to change their daily lifestyle. Learning and improving becomes part of everything that is done each day. As good as any therapy is, no one can fix your child. Raising a child with Cerebral Palsy is an enormous undertaking, however, if parents can be trained to approach each day in a productive way and consistently keep their expectations high then children will continue to improve.
Most parents have tried a multitude of traditional, alternative therapies and treatments and although it is a struggle for any family to leave home for five weeks, to find the finances, to miss time away from work it takes time to help children.
Over the past 18 years families have seen their children make progress in a five week period and as a result many of them have found a way to come back again, some many times over. They would not go to these extraordinary lengths if they were not getting results!
What is Conductive Education?
Conductive Education is an active learning process that helps children with Cerebral Palsy and adults that have suffered a stroke learn to overcome problems of movement resulting from disease or damage to the central nervous system. These programs are not new, they were developed in Hungary over 60 years ago and have only started to spread around the world in the last 15 years starting in England with the help of Princess Diana. Conductive Education is not a traditional treatment or therapy it approaches motor disorders as a problem of learning or relearning - a problem that will respond to the appropriate teaching. If they can move and they can learn, they can learn to move. By repeating tasks and integrating intentional movement with learning, the brain creates alternate pathways to send messages to muscle groups creating the desired movements, recovery and rehabilitation. The success achieved when a therapeutic approach is applied to all aspects of daily living not just to exercises done on a sporadic basis are undeniable and simply make sense.
What does Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy do?
The late Dr. Neubauer was one of the pioneers of using Hyperbaric Oxygen therapy as a treatment for cerebral palsy in children. through the use of SPECT scans he found that children who suffer from Cerebral Palsy would have areas of the brain that were showing low levels of activity "the recoverable brain" and once he repeated these scans following a series of Hyperbaric sessions he found that there was now an increased level of activity in these same areas.
At normal atmospheric pressure with 20.9% Oxygen healthy lungs fully saturate our blood however if you supply Oxygen for breathing and increase the ambient pressure you physically squeeze the molecules closer together and allow the lungs and bloodstream to carry a concentrated Oxygen supply throughout the body and most importantly to the brain and the rest of the central nervous system. There are more details on our Hyperbaric webpage.
Are Conductive Education and Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy more effective together?
Our clients have made considerable gains by taking Conductive Education or Hyperbaric Oxygen therapy separately and we have a great many repeat families that can attest to this.
The purpose of Hyperbaric Oxygen therapy is to stimulate under active areas of the brain while Conductive Education can help train the brain to take to create neural pathways to the body. It seems like common sense that your child would have the greatest results by taking the combination of the two programs together. We have had great success with these programs and parents have often commented that their children have made more gains here in five weeks than they had in years of their previous therapies, treatment or rehabilitation.
How long does it take?
Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy can be taken on its own over a three week period doing a one hour session, twice per day for 20 days. Thus receiving 40 one hour sessions actually each session takes approximately 1.5 hours but we only charge for one hour.
Whether you child was a preemie with complications or born full term all of our children's Conductive Education programs are five weeks in length. Helping children improve takes a great deal of time and effort, unfortunately, progress does not come easily. Some families will have just one parent attend while others may trade out part way through the class. Some families have also utilized grandparents or other family members to stay with their children.
In the Mom and Tots class (ages 7 months to 3 years) as well as our 3 to 6 year old classes children spend 5 hours each day Monday through Friday in the class while children in our 7 to 14 year old classes spend 6 hours per day.
When taking a combination of Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy and a Conductive Education program then a one hour (1.5 hrs) Hyperbaric session will follow the Conductive Education class and 2, one hour sessions on Saturday and Sunday. In this way 40 sessions will be spread over the entire five weeks.
What kind of results can I expect from this?
Even with the best treatment and other alternative therapies children with Cerebral Palsy tend to progress very slowly and many of them will reach a plateau and seem to not make any more progress. There are no instant fixes and our programs cannot work miracles however children can improve through guided and well planned activities designed to not only challenge a child but also to teach them to become more independent. The traditional approach of one on one therapy can actually have the inadvertent effect of creating dependence on adult help and assistance.
Here we create an environment where children are encouraged and taught to do things for themselves and learn to have the confidence to try. Many parents have been shocked and surprised to hear their child say, "I CAN DO IT" when they are trying to help them do something.
It is almost impossible to create this kind of confidence, teach the necessary skills required to problem solve and find a way to do the necessary tasks of daily living without having the time and structured activities we perform here on a daily basis.
Some children may learn to achieve better head control, learn to roll over, learn to sit without being strapped into a wheelchair, work on potty training etc. Children can also improve weight bearing, standing and also practice walking skills with only as much assistance as required.
A general series of progression for a child (although not all in one five week period) would be to start by weight bearing and holding a ladder, progressing to taking steps while holding the ladder. Once a child is reasonably confident they may progress to walking and pushing a walker in front of them. Every time a child becomes good at a skill it is time to take them to the next more difficult level. The next step may be walking with two quad canes (4 footed canes). After quad canes, two single canes and finally walking independently. Each step builds on the skills learned previously and in this way children continue to learn and improve.
Many children have been able to make one of the above progressions in a five week setting. Not only do help children improve but we also teach them ways of doing things that prepare for continued future development. In traditional therapy many children are taught to use forearm crutches, and although they may become very good at using these their weight is too far forward and this can actually become a dead end and hinder further progression.
Not all children will be capable of reaching independent walking however it is important to teach each child to do everything that they are capable of. In North America there is an abundance of equipment to make our children's life more convenient such as wheelchairs and electric wheelchairs, however if you can teach a child to climb stairs their whole world opens up as they can now visit a friend and climb the three stairs to get in the front door.
Children's physical development is only one aspect of our programs we also help children develop emotionally as well as socially. By working in small groups children learn to take turns, to interact with other children, form bonds of friendship and at times competition as they push and encourage each other. As one child learns to master a new skill it can help motivate the others to try and master the same skill.
For a child that was born as a preemie and suffered complications such as a brain injury or a child that has been diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy they leave here moved well beyond their plateau and are on their way to continued improvement. Amidst the cheers and admiration of their friends from the class they are going to see results and gain a new sense of pride and accomplishment.
Parents will also be taught how to adapt their daily home routine and how consistency in everyday activities will have a much larger impact on their child's life than the few hours spent on therapy will ever be able to accomplish. Every moment of every day can be a learning opportunity and when parents are thoroughly trained and really understand how to help they feel empowered.
There is no time for insecurity and doubt, parents need to have a plan and have the knowledge to follow through. we can no longer just wait for things to get better we need to take charge of the situation.
If you feel that your child could be doing far better than they are now, but need help to make that happen, then you have come to the right place.