Suit Up: Walking With Cerebral Palsy

February 1, 2010 12:00:00 AM PST
Cerebral palsy is a disorder that makes walking, speaking, and learning difficult for many kids. There is no cure, but a special suit that was first used in Russia for their astronauts is helping kids do what they once couldn't.Nicole Miller can't do everything other kids her age can, but don't tell her that. Nicole was born weighing just one-pound, 14 ounces. Doctors diagnosed her with cerebral palsy.

"She's realizing that she's different, and she wants to be able to do what the other kids do" Joy Miller, Nicole's mom tells Ivanhoe.

Thanks to this suit and intensive therapy, Nicole really can.

"It helps me stand strong better and do all kinds of stuff," 11 year-old, Nicole Miller said.

With the suit on, Nicole stands for 300 seconds. And she uses her walker to scoot across the room by herself. It's a "first " that she's proud of. The therasuit retrains the nervous system. These bungees keep the body aligned properly and apply pressure to weak muscles.

"It's applying compression, anywhere from 30 to 55 pounds of pressure throughout the body," Ariana Watson, an OT at Innovative Children's Therapy, Inc, in Winter Park, Florida explains.

But it's not just the suit. It's the length of the therapy. Instead of 30 to 60 minutes, one to three times a week, this intense program includes four hours of therapy, five days a week for three weeks at a time.

"In that time, they make exceptional progress," Ariana Watson said.

Five-year-old Andres was also born with cerebral palsy. After just three weeks, Andres says goodbye to his walker and only needs these crutches.

"The doctor told us he would not be able to walk, would only be able to crawl, but look at him now," Jose Toro, Andres's father said.

Two kids who are beating the odds every step of the way.

In a pilot study, 92 percent of kids who used the suit in an intensive program saw improvement. Twenty-one percent were able to walk on their own, and 39 percent learned to stand by themselves. The therapy sessions are expensive. At this facility, it costs parents about 100 dollars an hour. For a three-week session, that's 6,600 dollars.

Ariana Watson, OT
Innovative Children's Therapy, Inc.
Winter Park, FL
(407) 679-7837