Local News

New Approach Helping Children With Motor Disorders

Posted October 14, 2004

— Imagine your arms and legs ignoring signals from your brain. That is what life is like for people with motor disorders such as cerebral palsy and spina bifida.

There is a new approach, called conductive education, aimed at helping children with those disorders.

The idea, born at the Peto Institute in Hungary 40 years ago, is sweeping the United States and is now available in Raleigh.

Julie Flournoy's son, Stephen, was born with cerebral palsy. More than anything, she wants Stephen to learn to do more for himself.

"To find ways to teach his brain to move and learn to walk and learn to pick things up," she said.

That is why conductive education appealed to Flournoy.

Instead of just one to three hours of physical therapy a week, a three-week session involves five hours of therapy a day.

"It's just the more therapy you get the more return you're going to get," Flournoy said.

"It's actually considered an educational approach rather than therapy, because it's done in a classroom setting with a group of children rather than one-on-one," parent Barbara Levin said.

Levin said her 7-year-old son, Gunnar, is already making progress.

"Strengthwise, he wasn't able to lift his head up at all," Levin said.

Ginger Schweigert was trained as a conductor at the Peto Institute in Budapest. Her exercises are aimed at opening closed hands, gripping, kicking, and maybe -- someday -- walking.

"It's much better if you can teach the child more independent life," Schweigert said.

The classes cost $350 a week and are not covered by insurance. Parents are sold on the results and are selling the idea to donors.

"We're hoping to raise more and more money so that children can have the opportunity to do this free of charge," Flournoy said.

The conductive education classes are something most parents pursue in addition to regular physical therapy throughout the year.

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