A new normal
When parent magazine LER first covered the idea that pushing kids with mobility impairments toward a “normal” gait—both in therapy and in their lives—could have both positive and negative consequences, I instinctively got it. (See, “The value of walking in children with CP: A matter of perception,” LER, January 2013, page 14.)
That’s because my closest friend’s 8-year-old daughter, who was adopted from China and has several physical and emotional issues, had just announced she was done with therapy and doctors forever. She said, “I know I’m broken, but I’m tired of being fixed.” She was refusing therapy for convergence insufficiency, in which the eyes don’t work together well during near vision and which can seriously impede one’s ability to read and learn.
Since first bringing her home, my friend had taken her to more than a dozen doctors and therapists, most of whom had helped her child make great strides. But the child had also absorbed a message: The things that are wrong with me are bad, and so am I.
This dynamic can leave both parents and practitioners unsure of the best way to deliver needed care, including gait therapy. Our story in this issue, “Improving gait without making kids feel ‘broken,’” page 11, provides some lower-extremity specific context and advice. One of the experts interviewed, Paul Jordan, DPM, emphasizes that he cares much less about normal gait than about kids being able to do the things they want to do.
He encourages them to try whatever activity inspires them. He notes, “They don’t care if they do an activity differently, they just want to do it.”
Last night I read about Matt Stutzman, who will soon compete in the Paralympics in Rio. Stutzman, born without arms and known as the “armless archer,” won a silver medal in the 2012 Paralympics. He aims and releases the bow in a complex series of moves involving his jaw and feet—and with incredible accuracy.
His mom noted on his web page, “Our family strategy was to allow Matt the freedom to try almost anything if he could accomplish it under his own steam.”
These are attitudes that could change the future of kids with gait impairments.
By Emily Delzell, Senior Editor
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