Hello from Roanoke!
One week ago, we packed up a U-Haul and drove 6.5 hours (well, 8 hours, really, thanks to Bea’s insistence that we stop every hour to get out of the car and run around) to scenic Roanoke, Virginia. No, we didn’t move here – at least, not permanently. We’re continuing our nomad lifestyle and have uprooted our family – dogs included – for 4 weeks so Solly can participate in a constraint intensive therapy at the Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute (VTCRI).
In a nutshell, this intensive consists of 6 hours of occupational therapy, 5 days a week, for 4 full weeks while Solly’s stronger arm, his left arm, is in a full cast. Therapy focuses on some daily routines – getting dressed, eating meals, brushing teeth – and play, all using his right arm and hand. The objective is to increase awareness and function of the right side, with a side benefit of increasing core strength and overall motor planning. Solly works with the same occupational therapist each day, and another therapist – ranging from doctoral students to the director of the VTCRI Neuromotor Research Clinic – will assist her.
What’s new for me with this intensive is the fact that I’m not involved in the therapy. At all. All treatment sessions, with the exception of an initial assessment on Day 1 and an assessment at the end of the 4 weeks, are done at our rental home. Once Solly wakes up for the day, his bedroom turns into a therapy room and the door typically remains shut unless they come out for a meal. At first I wasn’t sure what I thought about this. I’ve participated in nearly every single one of Solly’s therapy sessions since he was born – and if I can’t, Nanny Jen will sit in on his session. But the philosophy of the VCTRI team is that removing the parents from the therapy session helps maintain focus throughout the entire session.
Me? A distraction? Well, I never.
But, his therapists report back that he works hard for the 6 hours and, boy, we have seen some good progress already.
There have been some expected and unexpected gains so far with this intensive. The biggest expected gain is an increased overall awareness of the right side, with Solly being able to lift his right arm to, and slightly above, shoulder height. He’s able to activate basic switch toys with his right hand, turn light switches on and off, and give a fist bump.
He’s working on opening and closing his right hand and on bending his legs on command. The team is also working on increasing strength through transitions in sitting on the ground and on the bench, and also quieting some of Solly’s sensory needs.
The biggest unexpected gain that we’ve seen is an increase in speech. I’d previously read that speech and work on the right side tend to go hand-in-hand, but new words wasn’t something I expected we’d see. Solly now says more (“mo”) and all done (“aaa gah”) when asked while eating, and he has started stringing so many syllables and sounds together that I’d be willing to bet he has even more words – we just don’t recognize them yet.
There are still three more weeks to go, so I think (hope) we’ll continue to see new skills while we’re here. In the meantime, here are a couple of videos of Solly showing off his new skills:
From early in the week:
To Day 4 of the intensive:
What I’m Reading
Here’s a little background info on the research and therapy models that the team at VTCRI are using:
- Reaching Beyond Expectations | Dr. Sharon Ramey’s TED Talk
- Virginia Tech Carilion neurorehabilitation research offers hope to children with cerebral palsy
- VTCRI researchers join forces to improve life for children with genetic disorder