The struggle for parents of children with disabilities gets easier with the help of Ability Plus Therapy and No Limits Academy.
Imagine raising a child born with a disability and consider how it would change the rest of your life. Or, try to put yourself in the shoes of a parent whose child becomes disabled through a car accident or serious medical condition that slowly progresses to complete disability.
For many parents whose children are diagnosed with a disability, the obstacles are not ones that were planned or expected.
“As a parent, it is extremely difficult to watch your child grow with a brain injury, spinal cord injury or degenerative condition,” says Laura Joslin, co-founder of Ability Plus Therapy in Melbourne. “It is even more difficult to be thrown into a world of medical terms and diagnoses, as well as a lack of expectations for your child.”
Joslin understands firsthand the magnitude of raising a child with develop-mental disorders, as she is a parent to two children with cerebral palsy.
And that’s precisely why she and her late husband, Lane, opened Ability Plus Therapy in 2004, which became the second clinic in the nation to bring Intensive Physical Therapy/ Suit Therapy from Poland to Brevard County. This cutting-edge, targeted therapy facilitates the habilitation and rehabilitation of disabled children. Today, Ability Plus Therapy treats children from all over the world who participate in its three-week Intensive Therapy program.
The Joslins’ sons, Cheyne and Matthew, are living proof that Intensive Physical Therapy/ Suit Therapy works. Specifically, Cheyne went from being a quadriplegic, sitting in a wheelchair at 7 years old, to now at 22 walking with hand canes at Stetson University where he attends college. Matthew, meanwhile, who was adopted at the age of 3 with quadriplegia, previously could not lift his head up. Now, at 16, he is walking with a walker and is still progressing toward a goal of walking with canes.
Ability Plus Therapy utilizes Intensive Physical Therapy/Suit Therapy using equipment like the Universal Exercise Unit (U.E.U.) to help children suffering from developmental disorders acquire new functional capabilities.
Achieving Greater Independence
In 2005, Ability Plus Therapy caught the attention of Roberta Neves, MPT, C/NDT, a physical therapist. She immediately joined the team at the innovative center and became partner in 2006, creating the perfect combination of parent and professional collaboration.
Since that time, Ability Plus Therapy has grown to be the largest solely pediatric clinic in Brevard County with therapists who are highly trained in this specialty area. The center offers physical, occupational and speech-language therapy with a dedicated staff of 11 therapists.
“Our mission is to help children with sensory and neuromuscular disorders achieve greater independence using highly trained therapists, superior equipment and innovative methods,” says Roberta Neves. She explains that Intensive Therapy can accelerate progress in a child’s sensory processing and motor skills through sensory integration, as well as strength, flexibility, endurance and functional skill training. It promotes beneficial changes (adaptive neuroplasticity) through the use of simulation of skills, skill practice and sensory input, thus stimulating the nervous system to produce more functional motor output.
“With Intensive Therapy, children acquire skills such as rolling, crawling, sitting, standing and/or walking, which they may have not been able to achieve with other forms of therapy. Using equipment like the Universal Exercise Unit (U.E.U.), which is a resistance and weight-training program that targets specific muscle groups in an anti-gravity environment, helps a child with a neuromuscular disorder advance in a shorter amount of time,” explains Joslin.
The U.E.U also promotes vestibular input through full body suspension,” she continues. “We also use the TheraSuit™, which was born out of the Russian space program. The ‘Penguin Suit’ was used by the astronauts to replicate the pull of gravity on their muscles and joints, preventing osteoporosis, muscle atrophy and joint laxity. … TheraSuit™ is critical in providing the input the child needs to improve the sense of proper body alignment, which facilitates progress.”
After establishing Ability Plus Therapy — one of the most innovative pediatric rehabilitation clinics in the world — Joslin and Neves, decided to take the organization even further.
As Joslin watched her youngest son, Matthew, who has cerebral palsy, struggle in the educational system, and fail the state FCAT due to the lack of proper accommodation not offered by the state test law, she began to look for other options.
Joslin researched private education for students with disabilities but did not find any schools that were suitable to meet the needs of a child with a physical disability. Based on what she experienced raising her older son, Cheyne, who is also physically disabled yet attended public school, private school and college, Joslin knew firsthand that the potential of children with disabilities can be easily overlooked in the educational system without a strong advocate.
It’s this understanding that led Joslin and Neves to open No Limits Academy in 2008, a non-profit Christian school established to serve children who are physically disabled due to conditions such as, but not limited to, brain injury, spinal cord injury and degenerative types of disorders.
No Limits Academy serves grades K-12 and meets the educational needs of a diverse population of disabled children. Its classrooms are designed to advance children with brain injury and other physical disabilities to achieve their
Currently, Matthew and 21 other students are thriving educationally, cognitively and physically at No Limits Academy.
Unleashing Academic Potential
“No Limits Academy introduces innovative and creative methods of education,” says Joslin. “No Limits Academy uses touch-screen tablets, extra-large touch-screen computers, iPads, Smart Boards and dynamic licensed curriculum software. These technological tools bring education for physically disabled children to a new level of learning, understanding and achievement.” Joslin further explains that the academy operates its classroom using an online curriculum which meets national teaching standards.
No Limits Academy uniquely combines fully adaptive classrooms with medically based therapy. Physical and occupational therapists, as well as speech-language pathologists (SLP), develop positioning programs and activities to be done daily with each student to provide stimulation for learning and advanced motor and speech-language skills.
The main focus is to teach communication through specialized speech software. The SLP assesses each student to determine his or her level of function and potential. The SLP also oversees the development of the speech software for each student.
“We also utilize a curriculum that offers real life, day-to-day current local and world events, along with the use of wireless head and interactive hand switches, and iPads to engage students in classroom participation,” adds Joslin.
“No Limits Academy will always strive to use the latest technology to advance the educational needs of our students,” says Joslin. “We will continuously encourage children with disabilities to learn, communicate and function with the advancements of our ever-changing world.”
No Limits Academy is expanding for the 2013-2014 school year. For five years, the academy had not accepted new students until development and implementation of its unique concept was completed with successful results.
No Limits Academy is now accepting children in grades K-12. Contact the school office to request an application at (321) 255-6627 or visit NoLimitsAcademy.com