Thursday, 24 May 2012

Successes

I was asked the other day if the extraordinary level of success that Snowdrop is achieving in treating children with developmental disabilities such as autism, cerebral palsy, ADHD and many others, including some rare genetic abnormalities is just a recent phase, to which I replied, 'no; - it happens all the time!'  The lady asking the question was a mum of a little girl who first saw me 4 months ago when she started the Snowdrop programme and who had made the most dramatic progress.  This mum was also a member of our Facebook group where parents regularly post about their children's successes and she was amazed at the progress many of our children make.

Let me give some examples of our recent successes.  I will not use real names for reasons of confidentiality, but most of our parents are open to being contacted and will readily talk about their children's successes.

First of all, let's take Steven; - a little boy with severe ADHD and pronounced auditory processing problems.  Steven literally could not stop!  His parents were unable to take him anywhere because of this and family life was very quickly breaking down.  Steven could also not bear to hear high pitched sound, clapping, loud noise in general and in particular he could not tolerate anyone singing.  His reaction to being exposed to these sound was to descend into a self injurious meltdown where he would repeatedly bang his head against the wall.  As a consequence of his auditory processing problems, Steven's language production was non - existent.  Steven has now been on the Snowdrop programme for a year and the difference is startling.  He walked into his last assessment and calmly sat in a chair, his auditory processing issues were not just diminished, they were GONE!  He was now speaking in 7 - 8 word sentences and mum and dad were able to take him for  days out without him running wild!  Yes, he is still a 'work in progress' but what a difference!

Then there is little Lisa, who suffered terrible injuries at birth, leaving her with only 25% of her brain intact.  In dad's own words her prognosis was "savage" and she was expected to be blind, deaf and quadriplegic.  She was expected to be totally dependent in every way for every aspect of her care for the rest of her life.  I saw her when she was 6 weeks old and not much bigger than a milk bottle.  She has been on the Snowdrop programme for 15 months and she can see, hear and is starting to try to feed herself.  She is trying to crawl, (and soon will be) and has the visual and auditory cognition of a three year old.  She is also beginning to talk.

Ben is a recent addition to the programme.  He is 25 years old and has profound autism.  Mum has done a variety of programmes down the years, all to no effect.  Ben has never once smiled in all his life, has severe auditory and tactile hyper-sensitivity and finds communication of any form to be extremely threatening.  Ben began the Snowdrop programme approximately 2 months ago.  Last week mum called me to tell me that she had never seen such a dramatic change in Ben in the 25 years of his life.  She was in tears as she told me that he had looked at her and smiled (and so was I)!  He had also begun to communicate, only in 'grunts' but it is a start and she was so happy that for the first time in his life, he seemed happy.

Little Patsy is 2 years old, is hyperactive, has CVI, (cortical visual impairment) and has severe communication problems. Her MRI shows significant injury in many places.  She has been on programme for just 5 months and is calm, is able to see and is beginning to use her vision appropriately and her hand function, which was previously at birth levels has progressed to where she can bang on a xylophone with a wooden stick.  Incredible.

David is almost two years old and has been on the Snowdrop programme for just a year.  He suffered a bad intraventicular haemmorage when he was born and also periventricular leukomalacia.  By all rights he should not have escaped this without incurring significant problems.  Mum and dad were 'switched on' about this and fortunately they contacted us immediately.  Today, he is indistinguishable in every way from an uninjured child of his age.  At his last assessment I had trouble catching him, he was up on his feet and off as quickly as he could.  Great to see.

Anji is only months old and is a little girl from the United States.  She has been diagnosed with severe cerebral palsy, but again mum and dad were astute enough to enrol on Snowdrop's distance programme and have now been on programme for only two months.  Anji was not using her vision at all, was very anxious, (which suggests sensory overload) and made no attempt to make eye - contact, look at faces and the only sound she made was a high pitched scream.  I put in place activities designed to calm the situation and to stimulate her vision.  I recieved a call from a very pleased and excited dad last week stating that she was now visually following him across the room and was so much calmer.  -Lots of work still to do, but the changes have begun!

Kristen is a little girl from Canada, who suffered severe brain injuries at birth and who was never expected to use the limbs on the right side of her body.  Again, mum and dad enrolled her on the Snowdrop 'distance programme' immediately and have worked like trojans, day in, day out for the past year to stimulate her development.  Today, she is walking, talking and is virtually indistinguishable from her twin sister.

Ella is a two year old girl from Australia and has a rare genetic abnormality which would severely affect her development and learning in almost every area.  Mum and dad enrolled her on the distance programme just over a year ago.  I didn't really know what to expect having not treated this particular condition before, (there are only 250 children in the world who have it).  She is doing really well and is defying expectations.  She is making developmental gains in the face of strong genetic forces which are working against her and is a bright, happy, interactive little girl.

Matt is a real character.  He is going to be an all Australian superhero.  He is just over a year old and suffered a stroke at birth which wiped out virtually all of the left side of his brain. His mum was told that he would be hemiplegic, that he would never crawl, walk, or be able to do much of anything  He has been on the distance programme for around 8 months and his mum recently posted two videos of him on the Facebook group.  The first video is of him taking his first steps, the second is of him playing with a 'shape sorting' toy with that infamous right hand and doing very well at it too.  Go Matt!

I was talking to the mum of little Michael yesterday.  She was upset because she couldn't bring him for his assessment today because he has the 'flu' (Hence me having the time to write this overview of our work).  Michael is exceptionally hyperactive and has terrible auditory processing problems, (the two seem to go together in many children).  He has been on programme for five months and mum was saying that his auditory problems are now reduced to a level where he can tolerate playing with other children.  She was also able to take him to the theatre the other day, (although she admitted to sitting at the back near the door in order to escape quickly should it be necessary) and Michael sat quietly through the entire production!  Progress indeed!

Now little Adam's mum and dad played a wonderful trick on me a few weeks back.  Adam was experiencing a morass of sensory processing problems which were causing all sorts of problems with motor development, language development, hand function and social development.  He had only been on programme for 5 months and I was nervously waiting for them to arrive for their reassessment, wondering how Adam had progressed.  When they arrived, the placed Adam on his feet, on the floor and he walked accross the room.  Another occasion where I cried!

I go to see Oliver in his own home because he has a tracheostomy and needs oxygen.  He suffers with hydrocephaly and has significant brain injuries, which if he had been left alone would have caused serious disability.  Fortunately, mum and dad didn't accept the status quo and contacted me whilst he was only months old.  He has been on programme for just about a year and is doing superbly.  Mum sent me a video of him walking the other day.  He is also understanding lots and lots of language and generally developing well.  What a different story it could have been.

Holly is 17 months old (adjusted), she was 3 months premature and suffered extensive brain injuries.  She first came to see me 4 months ago and she was experiencing severe sensory processing distortions. she was also unable to use her vision in any meaningful way. The little one was experiencing sensory chaos!  Four months later she is using her vision at almost her age level, she is at her age level in auditory development, her tactile sensitivities have largely disappeared and she is just at 'pre-speech' levels in language development.  Again we have a mum and dad who have worked their socks off.

Finally we have Finn.  I use his real name because you are about to be directed to a newspaper article about him.  Finn was in a terrible state when I fist saw him having suffered hydrocephalus and meningitis. He would simply sit in a chair and stare vacantly ahead.  In short, he was going nowhere!  Three years on the Snowdrop programme and you can read about him yourself here

these are just a few of our major successes; - they are genuine and as I say many of our parents are very happy to talk to other families who want to know more about the Snowdrop programme. 

To my parents whose children haven't been mentioned, I'm sorry, It doesn't mean that your successes are any less important. I just ran out of time.  I will include you next time! I would have been writing all day!

Anyone interested in more information about the Snowdrop programme should contact us at snowdrop_cdc@btinternet.com


Thursday, 3 May 2012

Injury to the Brain. - A Stroke.

In the UK, approximately 150,000 people a year suffer a stroke, - in the USA that figure is more like 600,000. In the UK this results in 67,000 deaths annually, placing it as the third biggest killer. Many people think that strokes are something which are only suffered by middle aged and old people, but this is not so, strokes are suffered by young people too, for a variety of reasons. So, lets take a look at what a stroke is, how we can help prevent them and how an individual can be helped to recover after having suffered one.

What is a stroke?

First of all a stroke is known by more than one name. It is known as a cerebrovascular accident, an ischemic stroke, thrombotic stroke, embolic stroke, haemorragic stroke, cerebral haemorrage, or subarachnoid haemorrage.

Ischemic stroke. - This is where the blood supply to the brain is restricted due to a blockage in an artery, such as a blood clot, or the cerebral arteries constrict for some reason. As blood supplies oxygen to brain cells, the consequencea are that brain cells quickly become oxygen starved and begin to die. There are two types of ischemic stroke, a thrombotic stroke, which is caused by a blood vessel blockage which occurs within the brain, and an embolic stroke, which is caused by a blood vessel blockage which travels through the body to the brain.

Haemorragic stroke. - This is where there is bleeding within or around the brain. Obviously brain cells are killed through the loss of the blood supply, but the bleeding into the brain also creates pressure and interferes with brain activity. There are two types of haemorragic stroke, a cerebral haemorrage, which is where there is bleeding actually inside the brain and a subarachnoid haemorrage, which is where there is bleeding around the brain.

What are the risk factors?

Some of the major risk factors are old age, high blood pressure, coronary artery disease, atrial fibrilation, diabetes, family history of strokes, smoking, excessive drinking, high levels of cholesterol, obesity, lack of exercise, plus many others.

What can I do to prevent this from happening?

Well, unfortunately, you can't stop yourself aging, but you can stop smoking, cut down on your drinking, eat the right foods, get your blood pressure checked and take some exercise. In short you can gradually change your lifestyle to cut out these risk factors and to become a less likely candidate to suffer a stroke.

If I do have a stroke, what will happen to me?

Depending upon many factors, - the severity of the stroke, where in the brain it occurs, the state of health of the sufferer, the consequences can range from being fatal, to causing severe disability, through to individuals who make a complete recovery.

Can Snowdrop help in my recovery from a Stroke?

We believe we can! Our programmes are tailored to the individual, addressing the functional deficits which have been caused by the stroke, whether those deficits be in terms of loss of sensory perception, loss of mobility, loss of language, loss of limb and hand function, or any cognitive deficit. What in effect the stroke does is to regress the individual to an earlier stage of development, and / or cause distortions of sensory processing. What our neuro -cognitive approach does is to evaluate the individuals sensory function, and look at his level of development in each area. We then construct a programme of activity for the family to carry out at home, which is designed to stimulate the person to attain the next, higher stage of development.

If you want more information on Snowdrop's rehabilitation programmes visit http://www.snowdrop.cc