Saturday, November 28, 2009

Rail-harness system helps disabled Texas children see the world from standing position

From KENS5-TV in San Antonio, Texas:

Some San Antonio therapists are using an intriguing system to give severely handicapped children the chance to feel what it’s like to stand up on their own.

The therapists and teachers who work with special need clients at TEAMability call them “invisible children.” In San Antonio alone, hundreds of young people with multiple severe disabilities need help to attain their full potential.

That’s where a special rail system comes in. Children who usually spend most of their time strapped into chair and immobile are suspended. They can use their own weight to move and explore different textures, different feelings.

“When they’re upright, their neurological system including their senses of vision and hearing are much more organized,” explained Barbara Goldman, program specialist at TEAMability. “They can bear weight at their level of ability. Their respiration improves.”

Annetra Merrill started bringing her five-year-old son Amir to TEAMAbility last month. He suffers from cerebral palsy, which normally leaves him wheelchair-bound. But at the center, he can bob to the sound of music triggered by his feet on the piano keyboard pad beneath him.

“You would normally see him in the wheelchair or us holding him or whatever,” said Merrill. “But he’s upright and he gets to explore and just kind of explore and do whatever he wants to do. He likes it.”

The $68,000 rail and harness system is used by more than 30 clients here right now. But there’s a waiting list. The need for help for children with extreme health problems is great.

This non-profit hopes its approach catches on. Being upright, they say, is incredibly liberating for the children and their families.
“When parents see that their children are able to learn and participate in activities, the quality of life of the entire family changes,” Goldman commented.

The children helped by TEAMability have many different reasons for their problems: prematurity, congenital conditions, accidents, near drownings, even physical abuse.