Monday, July 19, 2010
So here we are!
Eden is attending the Conductive Learning Center in Grand Rapids, Michigan. CLC is on the other side of the state for us...about a 2 hour drive. I had heard about the program years ago and kind of wrote it off as much too expensive and inconvenient to really be a possibility. I made a lot of excuses about why it was not an option, and I think they were valid excuses. I did not think that Eden would have been able to handle the stress and work load when she was younger, and I was afraid that putting too much pressure on her would have a negative impact on her body as well as on her spirit. I also worried that I would not be able to handle being separated from Holland and John for such a long period of time, and couldn't quite get to a place where I could justify the time and money commitment without knowing how much (if any) progress Eden would make and if it would be a fair trade off for how it would impact my family. It really just didn't seem fair to anyone at the time, so I never pursued it.
Then, several months ago a parent on a yahoo group that I belong to mentioned that she had a walker to give away. It was a walker that I thought might work for Eden in the long term, and she lives in my area, so I scheduled a date to pick it up at her home. I talked to this mom on the phone, then had a long visit at her house. Her 7-year-old daughter attended a 4-week session at CLC last October and she raved about how great the program was and really encouraged me to check it out. I started researching it again and became really motivated to learn more.
This time things really started to fall into place and I thought of it as a very real possibility. I have the summer off work, so I wouldn't have to take any time off. John's employer agreed to let him work remotely so he could come too. An online acquaintance offered up some great suggestions for summer camp options for Holland. The director of the program put us in touch with another family who offered to let us rent their house for the summer. We made a visit to the program for an assessment, and we were impressed by what we saw. Eden has made tons of progress over the past years in terms of her cognitive and language development. So much so, that I was sure she would be motivated and would want to do it. She is also at a great place physically, where I felt like she could handle the work load without being completely exhausted and losing too much weight. Plus, developmentally she is at a point where she is able to crawl and get around, and is really wanting to pull up to kneeling and bear more weight on her legs for walking.
So with much discussion, and a great deal of courage, we decided to go for it.
We are now two weeks in to a four week summer camp session. She is attending Monday through Friday from 9am till 2pm. And we are loving it. From my perspective, as a parent and not an expert in conductive learning, the gist of the program seems to be that by doing certain movements over and over, kids with CP can gain functional skills. A lot of the activities they do are similar to what Eden has been working on for years with her physical therapist. But, rather than working on these skills for 1-3 hours per week, she is working 5 days a week, 5 hours a day. They put a lot of focus on getting her to take responsibility for her own movement, to pay attention to her body and what she is trying to do. They have some unique equipment (wooden plinths, ladder back chairs, parallel bars and PVC pipes, etc) that they use to assist her in gaining certain skills. They sing songs, read stories, and incorporate a theme into each session (the theme for Eden's camp is Pirates), but everything they do is actively targeted at improving each child's physical functional abilities and maximizing their potential.
It's pretty strenuous. Every child is expected to do the MOST that they can possibly do. I got snapped at today because I picked Eden up to take her to the potty. She is supposed to do as MUCH of the work as possible in getting herself to the potty...which means that they bring the potty to her and she has to stand up to help get her pants down then help lower herself independently to the potty. When she is finished she has to pull herself up to standing, to help pull her pants up, and walk back to where she needs to be and get herself into the right position to continue working with the class. Whew.
I was not expecting any miracles. I knew that a four-week Conductive Education summer camp was not going to make Eden walk. I must admit that deep down in the recesses of my being, I kinda wished it, but the ever-present logical part of my brain was always there to give me a reality-check. I am a little bit cursed with an overabundance of logic and skepticism. It's one of my many flaws.
So we went into it hoping that it would be a nice change of scenery, would give us some good ideas on how to change things up a bit, and would hopefully be a great adventure. And that is exactly what it is turning out to be.
I am learning a lot that I will definitely be incorporating into our everyday life. Eden is making really good progress, and I have seen some amazing results from her hard work and persistence. She is not walking. She is not really even standing and pushing a walker as well as I had hoped she would at this point. But...today during the line program she was able to keep her legs straight while lying on her back while she swung a ball up and down and from right to left with her arms. It brought tears to my eyes (I actually wanted to bawl but there were other people there). She couldn't do that last week. And yesterday her stepping out to meet me in the hall was the best it has been. And one of her conductors told me that she stood really well at the bar wall and was able to stay standing through an entire song! And when I went in to meet the class for swimming on Monday she was sitting by herself on the floor tugging mercilessly on the second sleeve of her shirt AND SHE GOT IT OFF ALL BY HERSELF! Then she put her bathing suit top on with very little help and was so, so proud of herself.
So yes, she is making progress. We have had very minimal tears, and she looks forward to going every day. She really enjoys watching the other kids and I think she really feels like she is part of the group. The program is really well run and I have felt welcomed by the staff and other parents.
There are other things that have fallen into place to make the whole experience even better. The house we are staying in is perfect and close to everything. Holland is thoroughly enjoying her own summer camps (last week she did gymnastics camp and this week Little Diggers at the botanical gardens) We are all enjoying a little break from the monotony of everyday life, and it is shaping up to be quite fun.
Now I just have to figure out how we can get back before next summer. I'm thinking February.
Posted by Billie at 4:52 PM