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Kids With Cerebral Palsy May Benefit From Intense Therapy

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For certain children, she says, "it is very good, but I don't think it's for every kid. I've referred many people to it who don't think it's right for their child. The child has to be motivated by the group. You can't have a child who is not able to follow direction or is so emotionally or medically fragile that they need a lot of support."

The goal is "integrate children into a normal classroom," says Anita Keresztury, a Hungarian-trained conductor who teaches at Krindl's school. "As soon as they are able to move or sit independently, they can be in normal schools. Just because they cannot walk a long distance does not mean they have to be in a special class."

Whether they are involved in "potty time," "circle time," or lunchtime, kids are expected to try to walk into the room. "They can use a walker, but they have to take some steps. Of course, most of them need help, but they have to try. ... I don't think everybody will walk and we don't promise anything, but they have to keep trying," Keresztury tells WebMD.

Children are also expected to try sitting up on their own; special chairs come equipped with ladders or side handles to provide support. At lunch, children must eat with a spoon or drink from a cup -- not use a bottle, as do many children with cerebral palsy. All during the day, as each child makes small successes, the other kids offer lots of approval. There's also "lots of singing, all day long," says Keresztury. "It's very motivational for them."

Fifty conductive education groups exist today in North America, and four more are in the making, says Patrick Riley, president of the Inter-American Conductive Education Association. "We have made great headway." And in Grand Rapids, Mich., Aquinas College is opening a four-year course to train conductors. The college has launched the first conductive education program to be held in a public school.

"We want to mainstream these kids," Riley says. "Some kids make more improvement than others, but we don't want to turn anyone away. For the mother who sees her child pick up a spoon, that's a miracle in itself. So is a child with cerebral palsy who is going to the potty by himself. I saw the progress day after day in my granddaughter. Every hour, they're learning new things."

Krindl couldn't agree more. "In physical therapy, they would keep her sedentary in any kind of chair, strapped in. They stood her up one minute to bowl, not implying this was something she could do in the future. They were ... enabling her to become dependent, not trying to get her to stand up by herself."

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