You DON'T want to MISS this!
Its been a long time since I've written anything on the page, BUT I'm back with a bang!
My Life & Therapy: A New Approach is my first virtual conference series discussing all things Cerebral Palsy. The Conference runs from the 27th-29th October in the evenings (UK time) and is split into 3 workshops - Therapists, Parents and Adults with CP.
During lockdown I've had a lot of time to think about the work I've done, how Covid19 has changed things and what I'd like to do more of. One thing kept popping up - talking, specifically talking about therapy and CP (CP = Cerebral Palsy), to anyone who will listen! Not just for the sake of talking but to help people, by connecting through shared experiences. Therapy's an interesting one, like most people with a disability I have a love hate relationship with it; you know you have to do it, but you really don't want to (mainly because its boring and repetitive). If you'd have told me growing up one day I'd become a therapist I'd have probably laughed, mainly because of the endless hours spent doing therapy at home. If it wasn't stretching it was massage, if it wasn't massage it was speech therapy, there was always something. So much of my early life was spent doing "therapy" that its sometimes hard to remember other things, that being said if it weren't for the countless hours put in I wouldn't be the man I am today. For those that don't know my story here's a quick synopsis; the doctors messed up, I got brain damage and CP and they said I'd never walk. The end!
Luckily for me my family weren't having any of it!
Under the careful eye of my great-grandmother (Big Nanny) God rest her soul, an extensive home therapy program began. Between my parents, my grandmother and Big Nanny they formed a formidable team no match for any doctor or physio. Together they learnt, adapted and through sheer will taught me to walk, how to use my different limbs and built my confidence. My mum had a phrase growing up "there's no such word as CAN'T", which was met with some resistance from me especially when there were so many things I struggled with. On reflection disability and CP was an unknown world for them and one they were totally unprepared for, if your reading this - you did a pretty good job.
Life now couldn't be further from what was predicted. I've won 2 x World Games titles in the long jump and been privileged enough to travel the world doing what I love under various titles. One of those things being therapy - working with clients with CP and talking to medical professionals about what my family did and what I now do. Its weird to me even now, I constantly battle with the thought of not knowing enough - I'm not a physiotherapist, I don't have a degree in neurology, but I do have 24 years of lived experience and that's got to count for something. The funny thing is I fell into therapy in 2016 through Twitter, I won't bore you with the details but I ended up in Australia for a month doing an intensive with a wonderful girl called Trinity. It opened my eyes to a new world - firstly this incredible gift of being able to feel things that others simply couldn't. Even now I can't explain it but I can put my hands on someone and know where the problem is before they tell me. Secondly how with some tweaks what we did could help other people. That was my start and I'll always look back with fond memories, teaching someone to stand, helping them to relax, improving their quality of rest - all game changers.
In 2018 I found myself in Canada on another intensive. Whilst there I was asked to take part in the first-ever Cerebral Palsy round-table where medical professionals from all fields were invited to share their thoughts on different therapies. It was a blast and something we definitely need to do in the UK. It was encouraging as it confirmed what I've thought for a long-time. a) We need to change the language - we categorically cannot say "you can't do something" as we can't look into the future, you have no idea how much someone can improve in a year yet alone in 10 years. b) CP is so nuanced and there are no 2 individuals affected in the same way so there needs to be a more individualised approach. c) CP is a lifelong condition as opposed to an ACL tear that can be rehabbed, this changes programming and therapy massively - the approach needs to be more long-term management rather then do X 3 times a day 5 times a week.
In order to create lasting change and make the improvements I have therapy is a lifelong process that needs a holistic approach. EVERYTHING matters, nutrition, sleep, the amount of physical activity done in a day, stress, workload, for those in school or work the amount of time spent sitting down, wearing shoes, etc, so many thing many don't fully think about.
Where was I going with this? Right therapy. So what do you differently I hear you thinking. My therapy is based around what I've coined “The 4 Pillars”: Massage, Stretching, Mobility and Strengthening, in that order! Through my experience personally and with clients I've found that following these 4 steps in this order achieves the best results. I strongly believe that every person alive with CP today can improve their mobility, many haven’t been given the right chance yet.
So if you've made it this far, my ramblings are building up to one final point: Come to the Conference!
A small anecdote... Late one night in a basement somewhere in Ottawa after a wonderful dinner and a few craft beers I had one of the best discussions of my life to this date with a Paediatric Physio I'm very lucky to call my friend. She listened, provoked, questioned and encouraged me for hours and helped me drill down what I now call “The 4 Pillars”, if your reading Liane I still haven't written that book I promised... BUT I will be talking extensively about this approach and how it could help you as a therapist, parent or person with CP.
In case you missed it, come to the Conference.