I was walking the other day and saw a dad walking with his son. He was holding his son’s arm at the elbow, offering him support while they strolled along the path. And in the distance, I could see a wheelchair that they had moved off to the side of the path. Without skipping a beat both the dad, and his son, turned and ran full speed back toward the chair. The boys movement patterns were consistent with someone dealing with CP (cerebral palsy). His movements were flailing and jerky. His muscles were tight. His joints were moving in a typically restrictive way. And he had an unbelievable smile on his face while he was “racing his dad” back and forth on the path 20 or 30 yards at a time. He was loving it!
I walked up to them after watching for while, and told the kid to stop letting his dad win. To which, both flashed me a quick smile. I asked the dad if he and his son work out like this every day. Out of breath, he mentioned that they do something everyday, but they try to go for runs at least three days a week. He didn’t feel the need to tell me about his son’s condition. I think he could tell by my tone and demeanor that might have some experience with helping folks with this type of movement problem. And he was right, I do.
His son had such a bright disposition. He’s was unable to speak clearly. But, nonetheless, he could sure communicate. I was able to tell him a few jokes, and break the ice to the point where the son asked me if I worked with people like him before. I told him, “yes, with one exception…the folks I work with are way better looking…”. Thankfully, he picked up on my sarcasm and gave it right back to me. He said, “that’s interesting, cause you look too fat to move correctly, I don’t want be fat AND have Palsy…”. The exchange still cracks me up.
Movement problems, whether they be resulting from an extreme condition like CP, or exist post stroke, or even as the effects of a condition like Parkinson’s, can all be positively impacted by doing Ouch! routines. What folks with these conditions, and disorders, know better than anyone, is that small improvements can really make a difference in their entire day. Little, incremental improvements can make the difference between a good day and an absolute crappy day.
In many ways, people with the most severe movement issues are the easiest to work with when it comes to motivation and expectations. They are certainly motivated. And their expectations are real, practical, and attainable because of their familiarity with their own limitations. Most are not looking for a “cure”, and I would never suggest one. However, they are looking for improvements. Above all, they want to be productive with their time, and just like the rest of us…results matter.
One thing to keep in mind is that walkers and wheelchairs are "movement aids". They help us move. That's it. They are not a life sentence, a new normal, or any other permanent home for people with movement disorders. They may be an unfortunate reality, or a temporary nuisance for some, but they do require a learning curve. And more importantly, the overall health of our bodies needs to exist outside of the chair and the walker when ever possible, as often as possible. Use it, or lose it.