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Kids With Cerebral Palsy May Benefit From Intense Therapy

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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."

One example of Olivia's progress: Today, at age 5, she can sit by herself on the couch. "She gets down off it, turns around, can walk along the edge. It may not seem like much, it's as much as a normal 1-year-old can do, but she didn't have any sense of walking before, even the concept of movement," Krindl says.

Conductive education is a "total immersion" philosophy that seems to work largely because it envelops the child's daily existence, Murray Goldstein, MD, medical director of United Cerebral Palsy's Research and Educational Foundation, tells WebMD. However, the results are temporary, and children require constant retraining, he says.

Outside of one small study, scientific research is not available on conductive education, says Goldstein. "Even though we have pushed these organizations very hard to conduct research, they have not. ... We have asked, do they have any specific information about special characteristics of children who can be helped, how long the effect will last. I suspect it doesn't last long because children keep going back for classes. It's a very, very, very intense program."

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