Through my therapy observations at CORF, I come to better understand the physical impact of developmental disabilities and the importance of early therapeutic intervention. I also learn some amazing things about the human body, how brain damage and cerebral palsy impact it, and that early intervention offsets and lessens the long-term impact. I marvel at what our therapists do, how they do it, and the results they get from doing it. Even our outpatients impress me. They (and their families) demonstrate varying levels of commitment to their therapy which can be rigorous, exhausting, and at times, frustrating for them. Therapy is a process; and depending on the client’s commitment and/or the extent of the developmental challenge, results may be rapid and exciting, or slow and discouraging. The therapists in all three areas of practice find ways to motivate their clients towards success in their goals. Therapy is a journey, baby steps towards success. For many CORF outpatients, these small steps may be significant accomplishments, but are celebrated no matter how small or big the progressive stride.
After connecting with each therapy department and determining which patients I would observe and their schedules, I spend four plus hours a week over several weeks in observations. Upon meeting each client, the therapist and I requested permission for me to observe, essentially explaining I was new and clueless to therapy. All graciously granted observation privileges and welcomed me into their therapeutic journey. I also explained I write a blog in which I’d be discussing these observations; again, all kindly gave me and WFC permission to share their stories. I made every effort to be invisible during the sessions, especially when it involved children, for I didn’t want to be a distraction to the work at hand. Easier said than done; all the therapists, and sometimes the clients involved me during the sessions.
I’m a smart gal with a nursing background that includes biology, anatomy, and physiology classes along a misguided college path I travelled for three years before switching majors. Those classes helped me understand much of the therapists’ explanations and rationale for the therapy agendas. My observations also connected a lot of dots in my understanding of what causes the physical characteristics we see in people with developmental disabilities.
I witnessed small miracles (therapeutic accomplishments) and the excitement of outpatients who achieved them; sometimes, I witnessed their frustrations. I sensed not only the determination of these souls striving to overcome physical or verbal hurdles, but the determination of therapists to find creative ways to motivate their clients to circumvent their frustration into progress towards goal achievements. The therapist and patient move together through rigorous and even monotonous repetition of activities, through impatience and discouragement until breakthroughs happen.
Progress measures in baby steps, some so small only the therapist and/or the patient may recognize them. These incremental steps create the “mile” in “milestone” achievement. Each step of progress becomes the sum of which equals the eventual goal. Therapeutic healing isn’t what’s seen in the movies where the hero or heroine one day magically overcomes major obstacles to walk again within a two-hour time frame after a debilitating accident. Therapy requires time, patience, commitment, energy, a desire, perseverance, and an effort on the part of the patient, and in many cases, on the part of the patient’s family. Some will overcome challenges faster than others. In many ways therapy is a reflection of the well-known quote: “Success is a journey, not a destination.”
Through my observations, I cross paths with an older gentleman who suffered a broken neck and severe head trauma in a car accident; a courageous six-year-old who battled against all odds after a difficult premature birth; a young woman with a central nervous system dysfunction eager to be independent in the home, and; a feisty fifty-year-old woman with a wicked sense of humor who finds her voice after going without since birth.
My life's journey is blessed upon meeting Jim, the “mountain” climber; Nicholas, the heart thief; Jamie, the horse lover; Denise, the jokester; and several others whom we serve on Wendell Foster’s Campus!
In the Next Blog Entry: A Softball Great Goes Down: “My physical therapy lasted three sessions, and I considered it a waste of time. So upon arriving at PT for my observation, I admit I had skepticism.”
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