CIMT camp helps kids with hemiplegia learn to use, love both hands
Reid Health put on its first Constraint-Induced Movement Therapy (CIMT) camp during the first week in August.
Oct. 28, 2022 -- At first, it sounds like any other summer camp. Five days in August spent enjoying games and other activities around a common theme -- in this case "Under the Sea." There was a pirate day, a fish day, a beach day, and more.
But this wasn't your typical camp. For one, it took place at a healthcare facility, Reid Health's Rehabilitation Services building on Chester Boulevard in Richmond.
For another, its participants were all wearing casts much of the time.
Reid put on its first Constraint-Induced Movement Therapy (CIMT) camp during the first week in August. For the eight children who participated, it was a few days of fun meant to help them regain movement and strength in limbs affected by medical conditions such as cerebral palsy or brachial plexus injuries.
CIMT is a highly researched method for effectively treating children with unilateral hemiplegia, which is an impaired use of one arm. Children with the condition often compensate by completing tasks one-handed, which can lead to permanent changes in brain development and decrease their independence.
In CIMT, a child's dominant arm is put in a removable cast to encourage them to use their affected limb during play and everyday tasks. Even though much of the camp involves one-handed activities, the goal is for children to confidently use both of their hands in their daily life, so during Reid's camp, kids did a variety of activities, some with the casts on and others with them off.
"We did crafts, bimanual activities, and gross motor activities working on balance and coordination of the entire body," said Megan Smith, PT, Pediatric Therapy Manager for Reid Health. "The camp environment allowed us to work with the children for multiple days and multiple hours in the day.
"This concentrated 'dosage' of therapy is important for helping the kids make large, lasting gains in function."
"There are some families who will travel to CIMT camps because it's a unique offering. You don't find this at every pediatric rehab facility for sure." -- Megan Smith, Reid Health Pediatric Therapy Manager
The kids who came to the camp were given pre- and post-testing to measure their progress. Standardized tests showed all the children made improvements in movement quality and frequency of use of their affected arm.
This first camp was the idea of Reid Health Occupational Therapist Stephanie Van Slyke, who researched the effects of CIMT in a camp setting and saw its potential to benefit her young patients. It was made possible by a donation from the Reid Health Foundation.
Smith and Van Slyke have plans for growing the camp in the coming years and expanding enrollment beyond Reid's eight-county service area in East Central Indiana and West Central Ohio.
"We're really hoping to open it up to people from outside our typical service area," Smith said. "There are some families who will travel to CIMT camps because it's a unique offering. You don't find this at every pediatric rehab facility for sure."
To learn more about CIMT at Reid Health, go to reidhealth.org/pediatric-therapy or call (765) 983-3092.