NAPA is Magical

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.

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Lately: On Specialists and Therapies

The other day, a neuromotor researcher asked me to send her a list of all the therapies we are doing as well as the specialists we regularly see.  With all the traveling we did and changes Solly went through in the last year, this seemingly simple request was not so simple! After our year of change, in my mind, we really pared down the number of therapies Solly did each week, but our schedule is still pretty full. The biggest difference is that we have more therapies that are fun for Sol and fewer that require him to sit still in a chair.

After racking my brain, here is the list that I sent her:

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One Giant Leap for Sol-kind

This morning, we packed up a small 3 bedroom condo in beautiful Belleair Beach, Florida, buckled the kids into the car, and headed into our final day of Therasuit Intensive Therapy at Lamperts Therapy Group. For the past three weeks, Solly has been working his tail off three hours a day, five days a week. Therasuit is very similar to the intensive therapy we did back in July, except this round was much longer, much more intense, and very regimented.

​Every day, therapy began at exactly 9am. For the first hour, Solly started out laying on a table, where Gina, his physical therapist, would apply heating pads to his legs and hips. She’d stretch out each limb, paying super close attention to his legs, hips, and right arm since that’s where he tends to get the tightest. She would then move Solly through a series of table exercises where she’d attach a small weight via a pulley system to his leg or arm and, by lightly tapping him, encourage him to move his limb in a certain way. 

Workin’ those glutes!


After his stretching and lifting exercises, Solly would either work on walking or on core and arm strength for the remaining two hours. Both of these activities were done with Sol wearing a therasuit, which is a compression garment and a series of rubber strips placed to bring awareness to specific areas of the body. For core and arm strength, she’d move him to the floor to work through sitting, side sitting, tall kneeling, quad position, or sit-to-stands. Walking was done either in a gait trainer or on the treadmill.

Hands and knees – not our favorite


The entire three hour session was tiring for Sol. We made sure to take several breaks for hugs and snacks, but, in true Solly fashion, much of the session was completed with a smile on his face. 

Jumping!


Results from this intensive therapy can continue to be seen for weeks after completion, but here’s what we noticed so far:

  • Perhaps most excitingly, Solly took his first-ever unassisted steps in a gait trainer!
  • When Sol walks, his legs tend to scissor due to high tone. Part of teaching him how to walk includes proper foot placement to avoid scissoring. Over the final days of the therapy, it seemed that he became much more aware of where his body is in space. We noticed that his foot placement improved drastically, so much so that he could keep his legs from scissoring while walking in the gait trainer.
  • Improved core strength altogether, including arms!

First unassisted steps in a gait trainer


While these gains may seem like itsy bitsy baby steps, being able to walk in a gait trainer on his own is a HUGE gain towards independence. We’re excited to head home, continue the home program that Gina prepared for us, and allow Solly to spend more time in the gait trainer. We hope this will be the first step to him really taking off with walking!

An Intense Intensive

This week, Solly had his first ever PT intensive at Full Circle Therapy, the center where he does hippotherapy.

It was intense! (Seriously. Solly took a 4 hour nap yesterday!)

Each day started bright and early at 8am, which meant an even earlier wake up call than usual for Sol. Our goal for the week was to increase his mobility, so Jennifer, his PT, focused each day on activities to strengthen his hamstrings, hip flexors, glutes, and all walking muscles, as well as other activities to bring awareness to these parts of his body. She used a combination of weight-lifting via pulleys, a Spider Cage, mechanical horse, treadmill, swing, and therasuit to target his walking muscles and core, quickly moving to a new activity when Solly started to appear “over it” to keep him interested and engaged. She also tried having him walk in his various braces with his KidWalk, a gait trainer, crutches, and with hands under his arms for support, all trying to trigger and activate different muscles and so he wouldn’t get stuck in one pattern.

It was fascinating, exhausting, and, in the end, SUPER productive. We went from Sol really struggling on Monday to engage his flexors to walk forward on the treadmill to him walking on his knees and feet with assistance under his arms on Friday. We have a long way to go, but now we understand that Solly’s issues with walking stem from a motor planning issue – his legs get stuck in extension and his brain has trouble telling them to break up any high tone to bend the knee. Jennifer sent us home with three simple PT activities to focus on over the next few months and, because we see her every week for hippotherapy, she can check in on his progress and help us makes tweaks. We’ll focus on those activities for walking until the end of October, when we travel to Tampa for a 3 week Therasuit intensive.

We are so thankful to have found Jennifer. She is very in tune with Solly’s needs and thinks the sky is the limit for him. We couldn’t agree more.

Here are some photos taken throughout the week:

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And my favorite video of reciprocal knee walking (!!!):