It was a few weeks ago on another rainy afternoon in Seattle. The drive up to Lynnwood took about half an hour. We were on our way to meet with an organization working with special needs children. Continuing to become familiar with people who help with cerebral palsy improvement. Rehab Without Wall has their main location in Lynnwood. They work with patients spanning from birth into young adulthood. Focusing on physical, occupational, and speech therapies. The organization also has an intensive 3-4-week multidisciplinary therapy program. This program has patients come in from neighboring states, usually during the summer months, to work on specific skills. Our meeting was to take place with two members of the RWW staff in their offices. As we made the drive up to Lynnwood, my mind wondered back to learning about Rehab Without Walls. It was through word of mouth from a friend who had CP. They had gone through the month long intensive program at RWW. Before hearing of their story, RWW wasn’t familiar. So, following a couple years of anticipation, the time had finally come to experience the facility. After being rerouted because of flooding, we pulled into an office park.
There were plenty of places to park the car in the complex of office buildings. We found the building housing Rehab Without Walls, finding the reserved parking for the organization in the front. They had spots with placards for their patients to have easy access to the building. We found a parking stall just across the main driveway. Walking through the front doors to the structure felt relatively uneventful. The two-story office building felt similar to many entered throughout my life. Until we walked around the first floor looking for access to the second floor. A small child came running down one of the hallways wearing an enormous grin. His mother not far behind, simply trying to keep up with his enthusiasm in the moment. After witnessing him running so joyfully, the warmth couldn’t help but fill me up. We walked around another corner and found the staircase leading to the second floor. As the directory had informed us upon entry, we found the offices of RWW on the second floor. We walked into a fairly large sized reception area. There were chairs all along the exterior walls. The configuration leaving the large on space in the middle. Finding seats along the outside of a small cubical like reception desk in one corner. The final preparations took place before the meeting would begin.
While going over the notes for our meeting, the reception area began changing. When we entered, there was one family waiting. The room was quiet with anticipation. As the meeting time grew closer, more families began trickling into the large area. Each time my head came up from the page, a new face had appeared. The room was beaming with enthusiasm. The kids preparing for their therapy sessions moments away. When the excitement in the room seemed to reach its peak, a gentleman opened the door to our right. Through the opening appeared to be the main facility of Rehab Without Walls. The man holding the door seemed to be looking around the room, welcoming everyone in for the afternoon. Until he suddenly welcomed us as the gentleman we were meeting with. We walked through the door he was holding open. Once inside the facility, we were greeted by a kind woman, and everyone became acquainted. The option was left to us, begin with a tour or move directly into the meeting. Having met with organization prior, we have found it better to learn about the organization before a tour. It helps the understanding of things being seen on the tour. We were led through another door, which gave way to a large room full of interesting looking equipment. Toward the back was an office, where our meeting would take place.
As our meeting progressed positively, something interesting came about. Something causing Rehab Without Walls to have uniqueness. The month long multidisciplinary therapy program was the most fascinating aspect of RWW. The program has been used to work on a specific goal of the patient. They gave an example that peaked my interest. Someone had come to them wanting to prepare for a family vacation. The vacation was going to be a trip to Europe. One of the challenges this person was going to face would be the amount of walking. They needed a way to gain the strength and endurance to walk long distances. Giving them the ability to enjoy the family vacation in Europe. One of the main step in the month long intensive therapy program involves identifying goals to be achieved. In this instance, the goal would have been developing the strength to move through Europe. The meeting went on to talk about the TheraSuit Method developed in Poland. The method features daily therapeutic exercise and activity utilizing the Universal Exercise Unit and the TheraSuit. This allows children to make exceptional gains in a short period of time. The TheraSuit is a soft dynamic body orthotic. It has been designed to help improve proprioception, reduce pathological reflexes, restore proper patterns of movement, and increase weight bearing. It was a pretty incredible method to start becoming familiar with.
When the meeting had concluded, it was time for the tour. Walking out of the corner office placed us in the middle of a large area. The room was set up to look much like a gym. Immediately to our left was a young man working on a treadmill. Looking around the room presented three large cages. They are designed to work with the TheraSuit and referred to as “spider cages.” The gentleman lead us over to one of these cages. Showing us some of the things they are capable of when in use. He showed how the use of bungees can help with therapy. They have the ability to control the tension of the bungee. Another fascinating piece to the use was their flexibility. A bungee having one anchor point and the ability to move in any direction chosen. He showed me how the system has the ability to work on specific movements. The movement he exampled was working on the ability to eat without assistance. Holding the elbow in the air and moving the hand toward the mouth. It was an example hitting close to home. As part of therapy growing up for me revolved around the ability to eat. That seemingly simple motion of lifting an object toward your month has never been simple. So, it gave me chills to witness an aspect of helping kids today with that challenge.
We walked through the main exercise room and into the hall. There were a couple more rooms to look at during the tour. Our next stop was a room off to our right. There was a therapist inside the room working with a child. They were engaged with a small standing chalkboard. Maybe working on manipulating objects on the chalkboard, their work remained anonymous from my position. Peering in from the doorway, the room appeared to be a jungle gym. They had mats on the floor with a large climbing apparatus in the furthest corner. The room seemed to be used in teaching kids how to move and play. Balance could be a major skill worked on, with the way this room was set. It was a place I would have liked to play around for a while. This particular kind of room has been common throughout many of the organizations. The tour continued on with another bank of rooms familiar to our research. RWW had smaller therapy rooms, seemingly providing the ability to work on more fine movements. Also, probably used for speech therapy. These rooms were situated across the hall from the room geared more toward movement. After looking through the therapy rooms, we had come full circle back to the reception area. Our meeting and tour of Rehab Without Wall had concluded.
The organization was vibrant throughout the time we spent. From moments after we walked into the reception area. The kids we came into contact with appeared happy to be in the building. There was no way of knowing if the child running down the hallway while we searched for RWW was from there, but it wouldn’t be surprising. The children seemed ready to take on the challenge of therapy. RWW was focused on doing their part as well. With different ways of challenging kids along their journey. The intensive program can be added to the therapy already taking place. Getting a child prepared to take on a challenge approaching in their life. The example of preparing someone to participate more fully in a family vacation, seems one of many examples. The setting of real-world goals, then setting out to achieve them, would appear to build self-confidence. Learning these skills can implement activities which could last throughout life. Cerebral palsy improves with the motivation of reasons to continue movement. Activities seem to be one of the major ways we continue to move. We left RWW with the knowledge of finding a unique organization. Ready to help children and young adults improve their journey.