Monday, February 16, 2009

ABR: First Satellite

We headed down to Plano, Texas this weekend for our first "satellite session" for ABR. The main ABR center we attend is in Montreal, but for ease of travel, those in the program only have to go to Canada for one out of the first four training sessions that are mandatory in the first year of the program. The other three training sessions (which do not include evaluations by Leonid Blyum) may be done at various satellite locations available across the US. We chose to go to the Plano location because Trevor's Dad, Aunt and Uncle live in the neighboring city of Double Oak.

We planned to fly down to DFW and rent a car for our stay, but because of passenger loads and timing (since Trevor is a pilot, we get to fly for cheap... but it is only standby, so we risk getting bumped) we ended up driving instead. Luckily Plano and Double Oak are both on the north side of Dallas, and my hubby has a lead foot, so the drive is under seven hours. We timed it so Fletcher took his nap during the drive (3.5 each way... he certainly loves to sleep in the car!), so everything actually worked out great.

I have to say, I couldn't be happier about the training. Due to a couple of last-minute cancellations, there were only four families attending this particular session, and with two session a day that meant only two families per session, which means lots and lots of undivided attention with the trainer, who just happened to be Gavin, the man who did the initial evaluation of Fletcher in Montreal. I have a huge thirst for knowledge, so you better believe I took advantage of that time and really feel like I have a good understanding of how ABR will help Fletcher. That said, I am not going to type it all out here, but for the most part my posts from Canada in October explain the concept.

Speaking of concept, since we learned about that and the technique in the fall, the main purpose of this satellite was to practice the technique, get answers for any questions or problems we are having implementing the program at home, and to learn a few new exercises. Fletcher's new exercises involve the posterior neck, lateral chest, shoulder edge, and top of the head. Gavin also made us foam pillows to use for each exercise in place of the towels. Apparently, once you get used to the technique the foam pillows are a more effective tool, but towels are more forgiving, so they are used for the initial training.

We also got some exercises for the ABR machine. According to the ABR Canada website:
The main purpose of ABR machine is to enhance the number of ABR hours the families are able to perform. Typically the maximum number of ABR hours the families are able to do manually is about 20 – 25 hours a week with the average performance being around 15 hours weekly. That number of hours is most often good enough to demonstrate the efficiency of ABR Method and to bring consistent developmental progress for a CP child. However, in order to speed up the rehabilitation process, ABR machine brings the possibility to find extra reserves for working ABR hours.

The use of the ABR machine permits to increase substantially the number of hours clocked in. The machine is able to act as the second and the third provider and to extend effective ABR hours by using the reserves of the child’s daily livings – delivering ABR impacts in parallel with other routines (feeding; TV watching, sleep etc.)

Using the Machine to Apply ABR Technique while Feeding a Bottle

I am excited about the increased hours we will be able to achieve using the machine. While I know the manual exercises are the most efficient, and are the only means of applying the technique to areas of the neck and head, I also know, because of the baby on the way, that reaching our target hours for ABR will be difficult this summer (we didn't even meet our target this winter, without a new baby around). We will still aim for our goal of three manual hours per day, but having the machine will definitely give us peace of mind that Fletcher will still benefit from ABR when we are just too busy to get in the manual hours.

One of the other families we spent some time with this session was Charlie, his mom Katy, and her sister-in-law. Katy did a better job of updating in real time about our session, so go check it out over at Bird's Blog. And I will reiterate a comment I made on her blog here. While traveling for therapy is obviously first and foremost about the therapy, the experience of meeting like-minded parents is a motivating factor in and of itself. As Barbara mentioned in her comment to the same post, the natural environment (or in-home) focus of many early intervention programs, while good in many respects, unfortunately can isolate parents from the natural support groups that pop up in center-based programs. As much as Fletcher is and will benefit from ABR, I feel like as a mom I am equally benefited through meeting great moms in similar situations such as Katy and the others I had met in Montreal.


Mamá Terapeuta said...

I'm glad to hear your trip went well!!! We have now the machine also and we totally LOVE it!!

We are going to Montreal next October, hope to met you there!!!

Melanie said...
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Melanie said...

I'm so jealous!! I hope you guys got tons of stuff out of it. We unfortunately can not attend next weekend in Chicago as Daniel will be in the hospital for another 24 hour VMR and getting other work ups for ACTH treatment.

Sounds like your exercises for Fletch are different than everyone different from now on? Did they say how well he was doing and such? I'm excited too hear more.

Mamá Terapeuta said...

Melanie, only the first time almost everyone goes home with the same 3 exercises. Then exercises are prescribed(?) according to each child.

Bird said...

Nice recap! Cara and I are in agreement that Fletcher is just too cute for words. Also, she had a lot of fun and might be coming back with me in May.

Anonymous said...

I appreciate your descriptions, Erin. I'm still interested in knowing a little more about the machine. In appearance, it looks like (I'll risk a guess) like an occilating pump - like one of those massage chairs at the mall, except surrounding his chest. Please confirm so I can begin to think more about how it works. Thanks.

I'm preparing myself to have my comment deleted, and not feel bad...

Looks like you set Jacqui on my tail. hehe. I need to go and respond to her comment now.

Thanks for linking my blog. I thought my post on ABR provided much more encouragement for ABR than discouragement. Fairness is completely subjective, eh?

Jessica said...

It was good to hear your update, I have to checkout Katy's next. We just got back from California for our Satellite but I haven't updated our blog yet. We really missed seeing you and fletcher but it looks it was a good training. Ours was awesome, we got to spend more time with Abby's family (not sure if you remember them from Montreal) and also Nathan and Marcel. We also got the machine and the same exercises as fletcher... although to be honest I'm a little surprised they graduated us to new exercises - ok, i'll stop talking here so i still have something to post on our blog. ps let me know when you're going back to montreal, maybe we can plan around the same time.

Ellen said...

Hi, Erin. It is so awesome that you are doing this. It inspires me to look into ABR. Mostly, Max needs help with his hands and with speech, I need to get a better understanding of whether ABR could be helpful with that. So cool that you and Katy got to meet up.