On Day 1 of our 3 week intensive at the NAPA Center, which stands for Neurological and Physical Abilitation and is located in Los Angeles (and Sydney and soon-to-be Boston) and NOT Napa Valley, I proudly posted a photo on Instagram of Solly kicking butt and standing (with assistance) during the first hour of his intensive therapy. A Mama of another CP kiddo quickly posted: “NAPA is magical! I hope you have a great experience.”
I smiled as I read her comment, thinking to myself – yeah, yeah, I’m sure it’s great, but we’ve done intensive therapy before and I’m pretty sure I know how everything will go.
Nope. I was wrong. That Mama was right. NAPA is the most magical and amazing place on Earth. Solly made the most gains I’ve ever seen him make in a short time period.
Now, the center doesn’t have a magical cure for CP or anything. Solly didn’t stand up and take off walking or running on his own. But, he learned how to move his legs on command while on his tummy and later in four point position. He began to transition from laying down to sitting up with a mere finger on his hip for support. And he also started to take consistent steps in a gait trainer. A lot of steps. We counted 30 in one session!
Our intensive was 3 hours of therapy a day for 3 weeks, like the intensive we did last Fall. However, what was different at NAPA was our 3 hour therapy was broken up into 3 one hour segments: Cuevas MEDEK Exercises (CME), Neurosuit with an OT, and Neurosuit with a PT. Neurosuit is similar to Therasuit, which is something we’ve used before. It helps kiddos feel their body against gravity, hugging the body, putting it into proper alignment and giving it more awareness and, thus, good feedback to the brain. CME was something new for us. Per NAPA’s website, it is:
” a physical therapy approach focusing on improving motor skills of young children with physical disabilities & movement disorders… During CME or MEDEK, the therapist physically manipulates the child to stretch out tight muscles and train the muscles in groups. These manipulations eventually lead to the child gaining control over his or her trunk, which is necessary to perform basic gross motor activities such as sitting, standing, and walking.”
I’d followed a couple of children’s progress with CME on Instagram and it seemed promising for Solly, so I was really excited for us to give it a try.
On the first day, each therapist asked what my specific goals were for the three week intensive. I told them, each, the main thing I wanted Solly to work on was core strength and floor transitions – laying down to sitting, sitting to four point, four point to kneeling, etc. My reason for these goals is that I really want Sol to have more independence while on the ground. Each therapist evaluated him throughout that first day and then they spoke with one another over lunch and came up with a plan. For each block of therapy throughout the intensive, Solly worked on a series of movements that were repeated a number of times every day to help his body remember that movement pattern. Then, at the end of the three weeks, each therapist sent us home with 2 or 3 exercises (for a total of 8 exercises) that we needed to do daily as a home exercise plan.
Besides the wonderful gains we saw while in Los Angeles, I think what made NAPA truly special was how each therapist looked at and treated Solly like he was a 3 year old boy and not a boy with a disability. They knew what he liked and what could make him laugh, and they used that to push him in his therapies. Nothing that he did, like wanting to put every thing in his mouth or chew on his hand or flail his body wildly when he got excited, phased them. Everything was taken in stride, everyone knew how to deal with anything Solly presented them with, and each hour of therapy was full of smiles, laughs, and songs. Even if Solly shed a tear or two while working on a movement pattern during a block of therapy, the therapist would simply continue, sing to him, praise him because he was working so hard, and then when they were finished with that pattern, he was rewarded with something he loved – bouncing on the trampoline, standing on the vibrating machine, or just getting a big ol’ hug.
Because NAPA is so magical, its intensive schedule gets booked up rather quickly. I put us on a waitlist for intensives towards the end of the year and am crossing my fingers and toes that we’ll get to go back again in 2018!