31 August 2008

Alexander Technique: the great curer of back pain

A new study has proved the technique works best for relieving tension, reports Maria Fitzpatrick

If you're slouching over your newspaper, this should make you sit up straight: finally, we've found a cure for chronic back pain - and it doesn't involve painkillers, surgery or uncomfortable manipulation.

The Alexander Technique could potentially help thousands of people plagued by back pain Rather, the answer lies in a simple, yet powerful, therapy that's more than 100 years old.
Research published last week in the British Medical Journal revealed that the Alexander Technique - which works on releasing muscle tension to improve posture, alignment and movement - is significantly more effective at reducing chronic or recurrent back pain than typical GP-prescribed treatment.

Trials on 463 patients found that those who were prescribed 24 lessons in the Alexander Technique (along with exercise) experienced only three days of back pain in a month, compared with 11 days in patients who received six lessons, 14 days in the group who had regular massage, and 21 days in those given standard GP care (painkillers, often coupled with exercise).
The practice was originally devised in the 1890s and introduced in Britain in 1904 by Frederick Matthias Alexander, an Australian actor. Alexander had problems with a hoarse voice, which he attributed to nervous tension in his body before performing.

He believed that we "translate everything, whether physical, mental or spiritual, into muscular tension" and that the resulting poor posture compresses the neck and spine.
The technique he developed is, according to expert Joe Searby, "a set of simple, practical mental and physical skills, tailored to the individual", and it has garnered a large following worldwide, with Sting, Madonna and Sir Paul McCartney all reportedly believers. But until now, there was limited clinical evidence of its benefits.

However, this new large-scale study, funded by the Medical Research Council and the NHS, could bring relief to the millions of people - estimated at half the UK population - who suffer regularly from back pain. Fifteen per cent of those develop chronic problems, at a cost of £5 billion to the economy each year.

The technique aims to heighten awareness of the body, equipping patients to use it more efficiently, releasing tension, preventing injury and correcting existing musco-skeletal problems. It also can lead to improved circulation, pain relief, reduced anxiety and improved sleep.
"You're using conscious thought to free tension from the body and 'retrain' the musculature of your spine, neck and head," explains Searby, who runs a private practice in Oxfordshire, as well as working at the Constructive Teaching Centre in Holland Park.

But it's not an instant cure, rather a long-term adjustment. "We're used to expecting a 'quick fix' for pain," he adds. "But this technique is like learning the piano. People often feel some positive effects after one lesson - but keeping it up is crucial."

Joe Searby asked me to stand in front of my chair facing straight ahead, shoulders soft, and to think of my spine as a long spring. He explained that my head, weighing 10-11lb, was pushing down on that spring, compressing it.

Two-thirds of the head's weight is distributed in front of the ears, meaning that, naturally, it should move slightly forwards. But when the muscles of the neck are tense, they contract, drawing the head backwards and down, and pulling extra weight on to the spine.

Searby used his hands to straighten the small of my back and my shoulders, before putting his hands on either side of my neck. He asked me to become conscious of how it felt. I was aware of tension in my shoulders; my neck felt heavy and warm.

He told me to "order" my neck muscles not to do anything (this is different from relaxing: relaxing makes you naturally droop). As I told them not to tense, my neck felt even heavier.
Searby was guiding my posture so that I didn't sag; he then asked me to "send a message" to my head to project its weight forwards and upwards, as if releasing it away from my body and tell my neck muscles to lose their stiffness and "elongate".

He said my neck should be starting to feel more elastic and my shoulders to soften, and that this might feel uncomfortable because I was beginning to release long-held tension.

He asked me to imagine my body as a concertina: folding up easily, bending at the knees and at the hips. With one gentle movement from him, I was sitting in my chair. I have never been so graceful in my life. MF

• For more information, go to http://www.stat.org.uk/
• 'Alexander Technique' by Joe Searby (Duncan Baird) is available from Telegraph Books for £4.99 + 99p p&p. Call 0870 428 4115 or go to books.telegraph.co.uk

My Experiences Writing a Book- One Year Later

My Experiences Writing a Book- One Year Later

I was first asked to consider writing a book several years ago by the Medical Director of the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). In 1995, our daughter Rachel had been one of the sickest babies who had ever been treated at our large metropolitan hospital. She had been born 4 months early and had rallied from her deathbed 14 ounces to be finally be discharged 9 months later.

Because I was a clinical psychologist on faculty at the medical school and my wife Susan was a registered nurse, the neonatologist thought that writing a story about what happened to a child once believed born too early to survive would provide information and comfort to those facing similar situations and choices.

As a professor, my time was devoted to teaching, clinical work and writing scientific papers documenting our research on the human brain and conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease. I simply was too busy to take on this type of project. However, it was something that Shahnaz had said to me, “You and your wife once dreamed of a perfect biological family and yet you have to remarkable children who should know just how special they are to their parents”. Indeed, Rachel was a child that most thought would never survive and struggled with mild cerebral palsy as well as hearing and vision loss. Amy was born in China, on the other side of the world, not knowing how much a family in Florida wanted to bring her home.

I set aside several months and worked on a manuscript, talking with my wife, pouring over documents and reading notes that I had written to myself over the years. When I had completed the first several chapters, I showed it to a friend and colleague in the medical school who had a small publishing company. With his encouragement and the support of my wife Susan, a book took shape.

When the book For the Love of Rachel: A Father’s Story was officially released in September of 2007, there was considerable interest on the medical campus where I worked. I had over 85 scientific articles
and book chapters, but people were curious about the more intimate side of our lives. People started purchasing the book from the Publisher’s website, Amazon and Barnes & Noble. My first reading drew a standing room crowd of 100-120 people at Books & Books where I did my first reading and all of the copies in the store were sold out. There was also the unexpected honor of winning Reader Views 2007 Inspirational Book of the Year as well as overall 2007 Non-Fiction Book of the Years.

As the book gained increasing popularity, I was invited to many book signing parties and gave talks at fundraising events for the March of Dimes and United Cerebral Palsy of South Florida. What was even more wonderful, was the many e-mails and letters that I received from people who could relate to a number of aspects of the book whether it was the courtship of my beautiful wife Susan, the heroic struggles of an infant that could fit in the palm of ones hand, how a young couple dealt with infertility, prematurity and tests of faith, the challenges of special needs or the fantastic voyage to China to adopt a child. What I learned from this correspondence was the silent heroism evidenced each day by parents with and without special needs children, their struggles to navigate an increasingly difficult healthcare system. Each one of these individuals had a unique story to tell…

One year since writing this book, I have become more involved with the March of Dimes and recently became involved as a board member of United Cerebral Palsy of South Florida and support candidates that are cognizant of the struggles of families and our scared obligation to insure a better future for our children. Words matter… however actions matter even more.

For all of you who have dreamed of writing, whether you go with a large or small publishing house or self-publish, your work (fiction or non-fiction) is a unique reflection of your soul. While at times frustrating, writing engenders magic and creativity within us. The experience is liberating and in my case cathartic.

Whether your words are read by millions or whether it touches the hearts of but a few, a book or a written article is a unique expression and gift offered up by you. I highly recommend the experience…

The Butterfly Effect

A man's one-in-a-million close encounter with an insect convinces him that the theory is true: The fluttering of gossamer wings can change the world

By Dan Southerland
Sunday, August 24, 2008; W16

IN JULY LAST YEAR, a butterfly landed on my shoulder while I was taking a break from my office for a few minutes one afternoon to talk business with a colleague. I was sure the butterfly would soon fly off. We were walking through an L Street canyon near 19th Street NW that was surrounded by granite, concrete and glass. I had never seen a butterfly in this part of the city before. Now I had one clinging to me. It migrated to my shirt collar and stayed there.

After half an hour or so, with my new friend still perched on me, I decided that I should have a picture taken to record the

butterfly's remarkable arrival out of nowhere. So together we ducked into a MotoPhoto shop on 19th Street, just north of L.

The gentleman running the photo shop seemed to find nothing unusual about a man walking around with a butterfly on his collar and began clicking away with his camera. I thought that his flash would scare the butterfly away, but my little pal stayed put.

I decided to get the butterfly something to eat at the Smith & Wollensky steakhouse across the street. My colleague Catherine Antoine and I plunged into the rush-hour traffic on 19th, slipping between cars that were jammed together waiting for the light to change. Neither the noise nor the fumes seemed to bother the butterfly.

I asked the waiter standing outside the door of the steakhouse to find a corner table for "me, my colleague and the butterfly."

"Right away, sir," responded the waiter, acting as if there was nothing extraordinary about a butterfly dropping in at a steakhouse. We ordered calamari and two glasses of pinot noir, and I asked the waiter to get something for the butterfly.

The waiter, Emad Salha, returned with Erika Kowkabi, the restaurant's night manager, who said that they had conducted a Google search that showed butterflies like overripe fruit. They would prepare some chopped strawberries for the little guy, she said. Restaurant manager Phil McMaster also showed up to see whether he could be of assistance. On the wall behind us, portraits of George Washington and Ben Franklin looked down on the scene. The butterfly took no interest in the strawberries, and as I took out my credit card he left my shoulder for the first time, landing on the window blinds next to the table. Catherine managed to use her office identification card to coax the butterfly back to my shoulder.

It was dawning on me that I knew nothing about butterflies. My new friend's upper forewings sported reddish orange bands set against a black-and-brown background. He measured a little more than two inches from wingtip to wingtip.

A couple from Austin, sitting with their son at a neighboring table, enjoyed listening to our conversation about the butterfly, and we exchanged pleasantries. It occurred to me that a butterfly could bring out the best in people, even in this unlikely setting of dark wood, brass trim and rib-eye steaks.

I somehow lost my sense of time. We ended up discussing Middle East politics with Emad, our Palestinian American waiter. Finally I took note of the time again. We had spent nearly two hours with a butterfly in downtown Washington.

I paid the bill at exactly 5:52 p.m. (I've kept the receipt as a souvenir) and decided I might as well call it a day and head home -- with the butterfly. I phoned my wife, Muriel, to ask her to put off the movie she had planned to go to and wait for me, because I'd be bringing a butterfly home.

At 19th and M, with the butterfly on my shoulder, I hailed a cab. I immediately asked the driver to put up the windows so the butterfly wouldn't fly out. He quickly glanced back at me as though I must be slightly crazy but soon got used to the idea of chauffeuring a butterfly. During the cab ride, the butterfly stayed on my shoulder at first but then shifted to the middle of my necktie. We arrived at my home near Glen Echo and the Potomac River in about 30 minutes.

Muriel and our 20-year-old daughter, Shauna, were waiting when the cab drove up. I exited the car -- very slowly -- and took the butterfly straight to the empty birdbath in front of our house. Somehow we got the butterfly into the birdbath and brought him some chopped bananas and bright red and purple salvia from the garden. After clutching at each of the flowers, he settled on one bunch and embraced it.

I decided to call in witnesses, two of our most spiritually oriented neighbors, Gina Di Medio Marrazza and Elizabeth Sammis, to see the butterfly.

Gina immediately pronounced the butterfly a reincarnation. It was someone from a past life who had come to visit. "He's trying to tell you something," she said.

Liz had a more practical explanation. "This is a message to you, Dan," she said. "It's telling you to slow down. Come home earlier. Pay attention to what's really important in life."

Shortly after 8 p.m., with the light fading, we decided to leave the butterfly to the birdbath and our garden, which happened to be full of such butterfly-friendly plants as coreopsis, phlox, lilies, salvia, coneflowers and a single butterfly bush. We figured that we'd just had an amazing experience, and now it was over.

On July 11, the day after I met the butterfly, I returned home early. Muriel picked me up at the bus stop at 7:15 p.m. A few minutes later, I was trudging up the steps to the front door when Muriel almost shouted, "He's back!"

"I saw him in the air," she said. "He was hovering over the birdbath."

Then she spotted him among the cascading leaves of the cherry tree. I saw nothing but the tree. Finally, he landed on a dry spot on the edge of the birdbath.

I soon discovered our visitor could be easily identified. He was a red admiral, also known as Vanessa atalanta, described in several books as among the friendliest of butterflies. They've turned up in locations as diverse as the summit of Mount Washington in New Hampshire and the corner of Wall and Broad streets in New York's financial district, according to a 2005 book by Rick Cech and Guy Tudor. They can be found as far north as southern Canada, throughout the United States, as far south as Guatemala, in most of Europe and Central Asia, and in parts of North Africa.

In southern Europe, red admirals migrate in large numbers, but they fly less frequently en masse in North America. Cech and Tudor have documented mass flights in the spring along the East Coast about once a decade in recent years, "often followed by precipitous population crashes."

In the D.C. area, the red admirals appear to be among the most common butterflies, although the average life span is just three weeks. They turn up along the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal, on the edges of swamps and forests and even downtown, as I discovered. And, based on my experience, they can be amazingly adaptable. I always thought of butterflies as dainty, but it appears that some can be quite aggressive.

According to the Kaufman Field Guide to Butterflies of North America, red admiral males are "especially pugnacious, darting out at almost anything crossing their territory, even humans!" I went over to where my red admiral was perched on the birdbath. He flew up, and at that point a minor miracle occurred. He was joined by another butterfly. I thought at first that it was a female and imagined that our butterfly had found a girlfriend. But I later learned that based on its flying behavior, the second butterfly was probably a male. The two butterflies flew in loops, what I came to view as a sort of spiral dance. Male red

admirals typically chase one another to establish dominance over a particular territory. How could I be sure that my friend was male? No particular reason, just instinct. I came up with a name for him -- Poppy -- from the French "papillon" for butterfly. If I was wrong about his gender, Poppy would do just fine for a female, I thought.

So began a period of more than a month during which Poppy appeared 25 times.

If I came home after dark, he wouldn't show. But if I arrived at dusk, about 7:30 or 7:45, he invariably appeared. And day by day, he became, from my point of view, increasingly friendly and playful. I began to keep a log of his comings and goings as well as of his stunts, which reminded me of a fighter pilot who fired no weapons but just loved flying.

At first, I told very few people about Poppy. I felt somehow that I needed to protect him. My cousin Phebe, who lives in a renovated log cabin near Lexington, Va., and is wise in the ways of nature, seemed to think the butterfly might be attracted to the white shirt I was wearing when I first encountered him on L Street. So for several days, I put on the same white shirt every evening and then waited for the butterfly in front of my house. A neighbor walked by once and asked me what I was doing standing there in my white shirt.

"Looking for butterflies," I replied. But I decided that the shirt couldn't be the only attraction. I learned that butterflies are strongly attracted to the salt in human sweat, so it looked as if it was the sweat, not the shirt.

How did I know it was the same butterfly that landed on me each time? The answer was in his behavior. It was so consistent that it was hard to imagine another butterfly precisely duplicating it. Based on my research, it is rare for a butterfly to return to the same person time after time. Indeed, I at first thought that I must be having a unique experience. But a zoologist and amateur naturalist, Judith Shaw of Mitchellville, alerted me to a report about a boy in California who once befriended a red admiral.

Gregory Richards, 9 at the time, had an amazingly similar experience to mine, according to a United Press International story that appeared in the Los Angeles Times in July 1969. For 20 days, a butterfly believed to be a red admiral fluttered around and landed on Gregory when the boy played in the evening in front of his grandparents' home. Gregory's rendezvous with the butterfly, named Mr. Flutter by his grandmother, occurred daily, usually about 7 p.m. A local entomologist said he was amazed and couldn't understand what attracted the insect to the boy.

Richards, now 48, reached by phone at his home in Kingsburg, Calif., confirmed the story, adding that regular visits from a red admiral butterfly occurred for three consecutive summers at his grandparents' place. "I looked for him every evening," Richards said. "But if other kids were around, he wouldn't come close to me."

As early as July 12, Day Three of his stay with us, Poppy began to establish a pattern. He would emerge from the thick camouflage of the cherry tree. I couldn't see him there, but Muriel had an uncanny ability to detect his movements.

Then he would drop down to the birdbath and land on the top of the lamppost. I found that when he was on the lamppost or birdbath, I could come within six or seven inches of him and say a few words without disturbing him. He would sit at first with his wings closed, the scales on their underside looking like dried leaves -- a sort of camouflage. But then he would slowly open his wings, showing the bright orange-red bars that make this butterfly so easy to identify. It was a gesture that I saw again and again, and I took it as a sign that he knew I wouldn't harm him.

One thing is certain: Almost

nothing seemed to startle Poppy. But I made it a rule never to try to touch him. I was convinced that such a move would appear threatening. As it was, the only time I saw him dart away from his perch on the lamppost in apparent fear was when a car drove by with its sound system booming.

Even the appearance of a catbird, which watched the butterfly from a close distance on two or three occasions, didn't seem to bother Poppy. Muriel tried shouting out once to alert Poppy to the bird, but he ignored the warning. On Day Five, July 14, Poppy tried something new. He danced in the air, then landed on the lamppost and birdbath, but this time he also landed on my head, stayed there briefly and then popped onto my left shoulder. Then he teamed up with his partner again. And, finally, two more red admirals joined them and together they all showed off their flying ability, chasing one another in loops and eights. My 25-year-old son, Matthew, witnessing this, said "they zipped and dipped." I was amazed at the speed achieved by these small creatures.

From then on, it became almost routine for Poppy to land on my head once or twice in an evening. Once he landed on the rim of my glasses and sat there for a while. He also began opening his evening show by buzzing me just inches above my head.

On July 21, Poppy launched into an even more playful phase and kept a closer watch on me. He appeared at the front door of the house and fluttered about as if inviting me out to play. When I came out to greet him, he hovered, waited until I got within inches of him and then darted around the corner as if playing hide-and-seek. I found him clinging to the brick front of the house. When I approached, he opened his wings to display his brilliant colors.

That same day, he watched me rebuild a low border of stones along the driveway in front of our house. I had plans for a long, white, quartzlike stone that particularly delighted me and that would fit perfectly into a spot next to the driveway. I lifted the stone to move it to its new location. Almost as if he had anticipated this, the butterfly showed up ahead of me next to that very spot. I told Muriel that he must have been reading my mind. And, along with the lamppost and birdbath, the stone became one of the butterfly's favorite perches.

On Sunday, July 22, I missed the usual hour of Poppy's appearance. After dark, when I returned to the house, Muriel told me that at dusk Poppy had shown up several times at the dining room window as she and Shauna were having dinner. He seemed to be looking in, waiting for me to appear.

The butterfly obviously had no fear of Muriel, Shauna or Matthew. When I came home too late to see Poppy, he would sometimes wait for a while on the lamppost. Muriel would go out to tell him she was sorry that I could not be there. Muriel, Shauna and Matthew all stood outside with me several times while I waited for Poppy. But he never landed on them.

I became so attached to the butterfly that I would try to leave work early enough to get home in time to see him. One evening I walked out of the office and realized that I was going to be too late. So instead of taking my usual trip by Metro and bus, I jumped in a taxi and rode straight home, an extravagance, but it was worth it. Poppy showed up just a few minutes after I reached the house.

My feelings at this point were approaching love for this small creature. Poppy seemed to have a real personality. Our dog, cat and rabbit had to play to a certain extent by our rules. The cat, of course, did call the shots sometimes. But Poppy called all the shots. He didn't depend on me for food or water. He decided when to show up and when to leave. Except for possible concerns about predators (birds, lizards and other insects, for example), he was as free as you can get.

I'm convinced that he also had a tremendous sense of joy. The novelist Vladimir Nabokov picked up on this. A passionate amateur lepidopterist, Nabokov once wrote that the red admiral is "a most frolicsome fly." Nabokov also liked to refer to the butterfly as "Red Admirable," a name that according to at least one account was used as far back as the 18th century.

I began paying a lot more respect to all insects. Poppy taught me how little we know about these small creatures. He didn't completely change my life, but he certainly enhanced my ability to question. If a moth wandered into our house, I resisted the temptation to swat and instead tried to find a way to carry it outside. I also got a spider and a beetle out of the house recently without harming them.

August began with more butterfly duets and head and shoulder landings. Poppy seemed to fly faster than before and enjoyed chasing his friend. He also took to buzzing our car, a silver-colored Saturn. The car never looked more beautiful.

I began to prepare myself psychologically for Poppy's departure. Red admirals sometimes migrate, and I clung to the idea that my butterfly friend would soon head southward to a nice setting in Florida just ahead of winter. I figured it would take him weeks to get there. I later learned that this was a bit of a romantic notion at this stage in the butterfly's life and that he probably faced imminent death. Other red admirals at this point were nowhere to be seen. Poppy seemed to be on his own.

On Aug. 15, I stood outside for half an hour waiting for Poppy. Then I gave up, guessing that he was gone. Suddenly he flew overhead near the cherry tree. He soared fairly high, so high that I lost sight of him. I'd like to think that it was a final salute. I never saw him again.

Neighbors asked if he would come back. I explained that this was unlikely. But I held on to the notion that a small miracle had occurred. I had made a connection with the natural world that I had never dreamed possible.

I later described my experience to one of the most respected experts in the field, Bob Robbins, research entomologist and curator of lepidoptera for the Smithsonian Institution. Robbins said much of the red admiral's behavior in the evenings related to staking out territory and perching to look out for female butterflies. The butterfly might have been attracted to my sweat and might even have been using my head as a perch.

But Robbins found it unusual that I could approach within inches of the butterfly when he was on the lamppost or birdbath. Most butterflies will not let people come up to them, he said. He also thought it unusual that the same red admiral would stay in my garden and return time after time for more than a month. But he conceded that the butterfly's consistent behavior might mean it was indeed the same male butterfly. Finally, the idea that a butterfly would stick with me in a confined space such as a photo shop, then stay on my shoulder for more than an hour in a steakhouse and later ride home with me in a taxicab -- that, he said, was "really, really unusual."

Had it not happened, and fortunately I have witnesses to confirm that it did, Robbins would have considered the cab ride to be "utterly unlikely."

I asked Robbins if he was aware of butterflies living in downtown Washington.

"They're there, but they're not very conspicuous," he said. "They're not very happy there. They don't like the noise, the cars and the pollution."

Well, I can certify that at least one D.C. butterfly managed to escape that fate, take a taxi ride out of town and survive to have the time of his life in the suburbs. And for 37 days, so did I.

Dan Southerland, executive editor of Radio Free Asia, is a former reporter and Beijing bureau chief for The Washington Post.

Portable Wheelchair Helps Improve Quality Of Life

by Jeff Glasser

A portable wheelchair may vastly improve a person’s quality of life, in the important role that mobility plays in the lives of many of those with physical handicaps. Allowing them to get out and about with the need for someone else to move them around, a portable wheelchair can give them the independence they need and desire to help them live with more freedom. Nearly every government building and places of business with the passage of the American Disability Act, have made wheelchair access a requirement and is offering the benefits to those unable to walk on their own.

In the not-so-distant past, wheelchairs were large and bulky, restricting their use to the person’s home or medical facility in which they were confined. Their freedom to move about was restricted by the size of these unwieldy contraptions and being able to get out of the confines of their home was vastly limited. With the introduction of the portable wheelchair, their freedom to enjoy a better life was increased.

Many of the folding models can be stored in the trunk of most vehicles and are light enough for the average person to lift. The handicapped person can use their wheelchair to get into a vehicle and again when they arrive at their destination. Most major companies also offer the free use of their own portable wheelchair, ending the need for many to take their own with them.

Helping The Handicapped Improve Their Mobility

With the use of a portable wheelchair, many patients find that getting in and out of their own home more like a barrier to the outside world. Even those with a ramp on their homes to get outside may be stymied in using their portable wheelchair at their location. If they use a van, listing it in and out of the cargo area can be a weighty proposition unless the vehicle is equipped with a portable wheelchair ramp.

Their ability to be used in more than one vehicle is one of many advantages of these devices. Some vehicles are equipped with permanent ramps to allow portable wheelchair users to get in and out of their own vehicles, but if they must ride with someone else, they may not have that option. The use of a portable wheelchair will remain restricted to areas in which they can be operated with ease, but in today’s handicapped-friendly environment, their use is becoming more readily accepted.

About the Author:
In the crucial role that getting around plays in the lives of many of those with physical handicaps, a Portable Wheelchair may vastly enhance a person’s quality of life. Browse http://www.wheelchairs.jsgenterprises.com for more articles.

My Cerebral Palsy doesn't stop my love of music

I was born with Spastic Cerebral Palsy and weighed in at 3 pounds 6 ounces. I was in a humidicrib from the moment I was born until I was 7 weeks old. Throughout my childhood I have had to face numerous Dr's visits, I've had three operations on my legs not mention many hours of physiotherapy, times in my life of which I hated. I was never told that everything was going to be okay whenever I went in to hospital either which has now left me with a phobia for the rest of my life. I don't trust many people when it comes to having treatment for my condition except for 3 people. These people have helped to feel secure and safe when it comes to having therapy. They make me laugh too which is so cool. I want them to know how much I appreciate their kindness and friendship.

Thanks heaps. Without you I wouldn’t be getting better!!!!!!!!!!

Special thanks must go the team at Canberra City Osteopathy. You Guys ARE BRILLIANT!
Thanks for helping me to get back on my feet and for helping in general in regards to all the aches and pains that I suffer from due to the Cerebral palsy.

The reason I have come to love my music is that it has helped to get by in life when nobody has been there to listen. I found that writing songs about the way that I think and feel on the inside has helped me and is still helping to recover from the emotional rollercoaster ride that I have been on ever since I was given life.

A lot people have said to me that I would never make it in the music industry but as far as I am concerned I am there already. Over the years I have gone to many concerts to see many of my favourite artists and bands who have believed in me and are continuing to do so.

One particular family I would like to thank is the Chambers family, the family of KC Chambers ( the dead ringer band). From the moment I met them, they were ever so nice to me and they never put me down cause of my ailment, they just see me for who I am and I thank them for that. They count me as a part of their family. They have supported with my music by giving advice on how to keep improving etc. Because of them I have come along in leaps and bounds and I thank and cherish them for that.

Rain the Salon and Day Spa

CranioSacral Therapy: Discover Healing in A Gentle Touch

Candi Sparks, Licensed Massage Therapist (LMT #3465) for Rain the Salon and Day Spa participated recently in the CranioSacral Theraopy workshop offered by The Upledger Institute, Inc. of Palm Beach Gardens, Florida, an innovative healthcare organization that offers continuing education courses to medical professionals worldwide. This technique has been taught internationally and to be able to offer these services to the Monroe area is a big plus. CranioSacral Therapy was developed by osteopathic physician John E. Upledger in the early 1970's.

CranioSacral Therapy is a light-touch approach that helps alleviate pain from the body. This technique is used to detect and correct imbalances in the craniosacral system. These imbalances may lead to sensory, motor and/or neurological dysfunctions. The CranioSacral system is made up of membranes and cerebrospinal fluid that surrounds and protects the brain and spinal cord. From the top of the bones of the skull, face and mouth-which make up the cranium-all the way down to the tailbone.

The Central Nervous System has a large impact over a body's health and well-being but most importantly, the CranioSacral System has more influence over the Central Nervous System. With everyday tensions and stresses in life, the body absorbs them and eventually can hinder other systems from performing effectively. The muscles and tissues tighten over time causing pain and tension in the body. CranioSacral Therapy helps to eliminate the pain and tension naturally and strengthens the body's resistance to disease and promotes a sense of well-being.

This therapy is also used to release tension deep in the body to improve whole-body health and performance. It also allows the body's self-healing mechanisms to correct the body and relax. Anyone at any age from adults to infants can benefit from CranioSacral Therapy because it is so gentle. It has been proven successful relief for a wide range of medical problems associated with neurological dysfunction-conditions include: headaches, migraines, chronic neck and back pain, TMJ Dysfunctions, chronic fatique, stress and tension-related disorders, motor-coordination impairments, brain and spinal cord injuries, fibromyalgia, scoliosis, ADD/ADHD, learning disabilities, depression and many other conditions.

Each CranioSacral therapy session is highly individual and results will vary. Clients remain fully clothed during each session and relax on a comfortable heated table. Most sessions last about an hour and can be deeply relaxing. Experience how you can feel better now and eliminate the pain. Call and schedule your reservation today with Candi at Rain the Salon and Day Spa, 318-651-8088.

30 August 2008

To Have and to Hold

I can’t believe that I have been with the same man, now, for twenty years. Society feeds its disabled son’s and daughter’s the lie that a romantic relationship is impossible. This convenient lie is designed to endorse a comfortableness that we are to remain docile robots for ever more. However, this is not the case. This take’s away our own power, makes us less independent or interdependent on our significant other, and it puts our relationship out of balance.

A marriage, like a job, a hobby, or a spiritual belief, is an individual choice. Many do not feel we are capable of making those choices at all. We are rather to react to the choices made for us, by our enlightened overseer’s. I spent many years trying to find a person I wished to be with. Some men see disabled women as not fully realized, an object off research, rather than a partner. they may seek someone to mold, rather than love. With good intension’s, they may even try to manipulate. It is very important to establish individual autonomy. Your husband or wife is not a caregiver. They want to care for you because they love you, but, they should not try to have an agenda for your daily life. You decide what you wear, what you eat, and the one-hundred other details of living your life.

My sweet, dear, Mama Katie, always taught me; that when walking down the street with your man, you should feel proud to show and share him with the world. I learned this lesson way back in my twenties and thirties. I learned not to rush anything, and to listen very carefully to those unspoken words that were not said. I learned to trust my instincts and my intuitive self. I also learned not to settle for the first guy that came my way, to sweet talk me off my feet.

In looking back on these last twenty-one years of my life, I wonder where all these years went as I still feel young and spry. I still have a vibrancy for life and much to give. I see with a reflective eye, and a wise wisdom of experiences, like a fine wine sitting in a decanter waiting to be uncorked.

That’s what twenty-one years with the same man who said he wanted to dance every dance with me. We have live together, sometimes with rough seas, and periods of calm. All and all it has been worth while and exciting to have a man of truth, honor, and dignity by my side.

My Red Desoto

Just a few weeks ago, I began cycling again, after having toe surgery. It felt so good getting decked out in my biking outfit, and riding down the tree covered streets once again, My husband, Chris, helped me attach my helmet strap, my glove strap, and my feet onto my shoe petals. And I was good to go-

Who says people with Cerebral Palsy can’t do the same kind of activities as "normal" people do!

I remember the first time I ever got onto a bike. That was back when I was only 8 years old. It was something I only did one time, yet I knew that that was something I’d like to do again if given the chance.
I knew some how, some way, in the depths of my heart, I could do it. All I needed was a little help, from a kind hearted someone. I also knew that all I needed was help with a few technicality’s (like bucking my foot to keep it in place, so it would not move, and protection on my head and hands.) Then, I could ride my bike like any one else- I would then be able to go any where I wanted and ride as fast as the wind would take me. This joyful activity would give me more freedom. It would be yet another way to worked my body out. And, it would bring me much pleasure, contentment, and loads of fun- I knew that if I could get this worked out, then I could do it. There was no question or doubt in my mind. I knew some how, some way, this opportunity would arise again if I stayed positive and focused.
I kept these thought in my mind, till one day, when my husband came home with a surprise gift for me. Chris told me to come out side with him for a minute. So I did. I remember looking up, and there down the driveway was sitting a blue bicycle next to our car. That was about 13 years ago. While standing there and gasping with utter amazement, my heart skipped a beat. I was truly surprised. I was elated, and ecstatically happy. My dream had come true! This gift, was a cherished hope, and a thought of a real possibility, that I too would accomplish one day. Somehow, I kept these thoughts alive in my being until that one, special day, it all come true! It was a quiet prayer and hope that was answered; as I only made mentioned of it once. My husband made this dream come true for me. How special is that! He also made me feel very loved as he made me a very happy girl! However, it is not the bike you see in the pictures here.
The first bike was blue, and sat much higher. When I would ride down hills, it made me feel very insecure, so, one Saturday afternoon, Chris, and I went looking for new ones. We looked in a few bicycle store’s, and then, at the last shop, which was near our house, I found this perfect, beautiful, red Desoto . It was all mine and I was going to take it home with me-
Now, after all these years, I am still riding it and keeping it very shiny with TLC. Chris has made some pedal modifications, too! These modifications help me to petal faster, as well as keeps my foot on. I no longer have to call my hubby every few minutes to fix my foot, and I have more power to push and pull. This helps tremendously when I am on a hill, stop light, or just want to go faster. My foot does not slip out of the strap, either any more- I can tell you honestly, that I feel very secure with my bike, and, I love and adore riding it.
Even though I need some help in order to go biking, I welcome every opportunity I get. It is not only a treat, but something I enjoyed tremendously. It keeps me fit, trim and in shape, and more than that, it free’s my spirit. It makes me feel like a a kid again! I can do what everybody else does. And, It make me feel vibrant and alive! It energizes me,
What’s more, I can visually picture me now, riding along side all the other children in my neighborhood that I would watch joyfully riding down the streets with this carefree, exuberance. Now instead of feeling left out, it has helped made me feel complete… I get lots of smiles and thumbs-up from other cyclist, too!

Now, all I have to do is ask my hubby if he wants to go for a cycle, and off we go! We take my Healer/ Terrier mix breed dog, Patches, for her run as well. It couldn’t be more fun. She runs about a mile with daddy and then rides the rest of the way with me, mommy:>) Lately, we have been doing a lot more riding since gasoline prices have risen. We cycle well over 3 miles one way to our open air market to get our fresh fruits and veggies on Saturday mornings. While other times, we have taken our bikes to the strand, in Redondo Beach, California, and rode all the way to Marina Del Ray, and back. Still other times, we’ve packed our bikes up in the truck, drove to a particular point, unload our two and three wheelers from our vehicle, and off we ride- Last time, we petaled from Venice Beach, CA. all the way to the Santa Monica pair.
During the summer months, Chris and I pack up our brown bag of goodies, and have an ocean front view of the water; while eating our lunch or dinner to the sweet crashing sounds of the waves. We have enjoyed many a meal with the gentle,sea breeze blowing its currents ever so sweetly upon our face.

You couldn’t ask for anything better than that, can you!

Battling meningitis

Bruce Langoulant is on a mission to raise awareness of the insidious effects of meningitis.

MENINGITIS can destroy the brain and body within 24 hours of contracting the disease. Perth-based Bruce Langoulant found out the heart-wrenching way in 1989 when his second daughter, Ashleigh, at six months old, was rushed to hospital.

It was a hot, Christmas season in Western Australia when Ashleigh developed a fever. But Bruce’s wife, Jenni, did not suspect anything unusual when she brought her to their regular general physician for a check-up.

But the next day, the doctor felt compelled to call and asked the Langoulants to bring their baby for him to re-examine. It became apparent that Ashleigh had more than a fever. Her listlessness and the red rashes on her little face were tell-tale signs of meningitis. The disease can cause 20% of its sufferers to experience life-long disabilities, and spells death for another 8%.

Bruce Langoulant’s family. Ashleigh is in the middle.

Up until then, Ashleigh was a picture of health. She met every developmental milestone. A video of her as a baby shows her crawling cheerfully, exploring her little world.

But when the bacterial pneumococcal meningitis attacked her brain and spinal cord, Ashleigh lost her sight, hearing and mobility. For the next 18 months, Ashleigh lived in a world of darkness before she regained her sight.

But at 19, she remains deaf and has to undergo regular physiotherapy to tone her muscles following the loss of control of movement caused by cerebral palsy. She is also taking medication for epilepsy.

As Bruce notes in his recently launched book, Meningitis: A Tragedy by Installment, “Meningitis is an insidious illness occurring in ones and twos across the country on a regular basis. It is like a tragedy, but by instalments.” His conclusion is based on the 300 families across Australia who responded to a survey he initiated through the newspapers.

Ashleigh’s debilitating condition means she has to be cared for round the clock. Bruce and Jenni take turns to clean and feed her. They have two other daughters – Jessica, 22, and Courtney, 16.

Carrying her, wheeling her and dressing her are part of Bruce’s routine. Because Ashleigh is unable to communicate in the conventional way, it can be tough at times for the family, especially when she is about to have her menses. “Ashleigh is like a six-month-old trapped in the body of a 19-year-old,” says Bruce.

He recently flew in to Kuala Lumpur on the invitation of a newly formed parents support group called Pro-active Parents Group.

Determined to help other families avoid the potentially devastating disease, Bruce became a parent advocate in 1992.

Over the past 16 years, Bruce has been diligently raising awareness, lobbying and mobilising parents and the medical fraternity to work together towards making informed decisions.

He established the Meningitis Centre in Australia. He also serves as chairman of the Disability Services Commission, a governmental department in Western Australia that manages accommodation, therapy and support services to families and individuals who have physical and neurological disabilities.

Bruce also travels overseas regularly in his capacity as president of the Confederation of Meningitis Organisations that connects parents support groups globally with health and research organisations.

In Australia, for instance, Bruce was instrumental in getting the government to mandate free pneumococcal immunisation whereby babies born from Jan 1, 2005, receive three doses of vaccines against meningitis at two, four and six months. The elderly over 65, and children born between Jan 1, 2003, and Dec 31, 2004, are also vaccinated.

(In Malaysia, immunisation against pneumococcal meningitis is optional and is available in private clinics).

Bruce admits there had been times when he and wife asked themselves: “Would we have done it differently if we knew about meningitis?” Not wanting other families to suffer the same fate, Bruce is driven to do his utmost to reach out to as many parents as possible.

Bruce is well aware that he is pitted against the global anti-vaccine group which asserts that certain vaccines can impair the immune system and the brain. For instance, the triple antigen for mumps, measles and rubella had been blamed for the rise in autism.

But he clearly believes vaccination against diseases outweighs such fears. “We have to accept the fact as the world population grows, with the attendant impact on hygiene, health and resources, we can expect more vaccinations,” he asserts.

Bruce cautions parents who choose to delay or abstain from vaccinating their children. “Ultimately, parents must take responsibility for the choices they make for their children.”

Not one to blame doctors who miss the signs or misdiagnose, Bruce urges medical professionals to work with parents. “If the parents are coming back to see you with their child, don’t treat them like they are over-emotional, out of control. Work with them.”

In the end, like all doting parents, Bruce’s hope for Ashleigh is for her to be safe, healthy and loved.

One Voice is a monthly column which serves as a platform for professionals, parents and careproviders of children with learning difficulties. Feedback on the column can be sent to dignitytm.net.my. For enquiries of services and support groups, call Malaysian Care ( 03 90582102) or Dignity & Services ( 03-77255569).

Danger signs

Symptoms of meningitis in infants:

Fever, possibly with cold hands and feet

Refusing feeds or vomiting

High-pitched moaning, cry or whimpering

Dislike being handled or fretful

Neck retraction with arching of back

Blank and staring expression

Child is difficult to wake, lethargic

Pale, blotchy complexion

Floppy or stiff or jerking movements

Symptoms can appear in any order and may not all be present.

Source: The Meningitis Centre (www.menin gitis.com.au).

Wii and Cerebral Palsy

Well this week as been a change for me to say the least, I decided to buy myself a Wii after reading an article that in might be good for people with Cerebral Palsy, so I thought I am going to get one as my cousin has one and loves it, and the driver who takes me to work each day has one and he and is family play quite a lot and said that you will be able to do it from your chair.

So off I went to the shop and purchased on with a couple of free games and I have to say I love it and only now after a couple of days my arms are aching!! but I have mastered the baseball, the first time I tried it I missed the ball every time, test of my hand and eye co-ordination, but today I hit the ball every time and got 2 home runs, without leaving my chair.

This morning I tested myself and had ago in standing and I managed quite well and didn't fall, wobbled a bit, but my thinking is the more I play standing the stronger I will get and therefore the Wii is going to help me physically and I am having fun at the same time, in the short time I have had it I am begining to agree with the article

Book your stand at Naidex 2009!

Naidex is the national homecare, disability and rehabilitation exhibition. The event attracts healthcare professionals (occupational therapists, physiotherapists, nursing professionals) and members of the public with a disability, the elderly, their family and carers. All will be looking for the latest developments, advice and information to improve independent living.

This year the event had a 5% increase in visitor numbers to 10,799 (ABC audited) and 85% of space has already been taken! The next show takes place on the 28th - 30th April 2009 at the NEC, Birmingham. The event is getting bigger and bigger and is seen as the place to come to get all your information needs under one roof.
Over 350 exhibitors will be at Naidex 2009 including The Stroke Association, British Polio Fellowship, Whizz-Kidz, Wheelchair Children, Vitalise, Muscular Dystrophy Campaign, the National Trust, the Blue Badge Network, Independent Living Funds, Ricability, ASBAH, Canine Partners and the Disabled Living Foundation - who run the show information point.

Naidex is the ideal platform to raise your profile, get your message across and meet thousands of healthcare professionals and members of the public with a disability face to face.

Please contact Stephen Illingworth for more details - 0207 728 3724 / stephen.illingworth@emap.com

We look forward to welcoming you to Naidex 2009!

25 August 2008

Paralympians are ready, willing and able

Britain's Paralympians could pick up a bumper haul of medals in Beijing next month,says John Goodbody

That golden glow British sports fans have been feeling for the past fortnight may linger for a while yet. Following the historic success of the Great Britain competitors at the Beijing Olympics, which close today, their Paralympic counterparts are hoping to top the 94 medals (including 35 golds) they won at the Athens Games in 2004.
While some of the British team are serious contenders for gold next month, others will be looking to gain invaluable experience ahead of the London 2012 Paralympics. The Great Britain team is more than 200 strong and will be competing in 18 of the 20 sports.
One Briton expected to collect a pile of medals in Beijing is David Roberts, 28, a swimmer with cerebral palsy, who holds freestyle world records in the 50m, 100m, 200m and 400m. Four years ago in Athens, the ebullient Roberts won three individual gold medals plus one in the 4 x 100m relay. His favourite event is the 50m, the flat-out sprint over one length of the pool, in which he will be going for his third successive Paralympic title.
Roberts lives in the rugby union heartland of Pontypridd, trains at Swansea and relies on his father “to get me up really early and take me swimming. If I weren’t a swimmer, I’d want to play rugby for Wales”.
Several others will be defending their titles at the Paralympics, including Lee Pearson, 34, who has six equestrian golds from Sydney and Athens. Pearson has a condition that affects his joints and therefore has limited use of his legs when riding. Instead, he controls his horse, called Gentleman, using only his hips. He runs a yard and breeding business near Leek, Staffordshire, but relies on public funding because, as he says: “Horses eat money, not grass.”
The multi-medallist swimmer Sarah Bailey, 30, from Manchester, hopes to add to her haul in her new Paralympic sport of cycling, under her new married name of Storey.
In swimming, Louise Watkin, 16, warmed up for the Paralympics by setting a European record in her disabled category for the 200m individual medley at the national championships in Sheffield. Despite having only one hand, the Devon college student’s weekly training often adds up to the equivalent of swimming the Channel.
Nathan Stephens, who lost his legs in a railway accident at the age of nine, will be taking part in his first summer Games. The 20-year-old from Cardiff will be throwing the shot, discus and javelin, having competed in the ice sledge hockey at the 2006 Winter Paralympics in Turin.
Other debutants expected to do well next month include Libby Clegg, 18, a visually impaired sprinter based in Edinburgh, and law student Danielle Brown, 20, from North Yorkshire, who competes in the wheelchair archery event.
Judo is one sport in which visually impaired and able-bodied athletes could compete equally. Visually impaired fighters may, indeed, have an advantage through being particularly sensitive to opponents’ movement and shifts in balance prior to the launching of throws. The main difference, says Sam Ingram, who will be in the under90kg category at the Paralympics, is that fighters grip each other under the arms at the start of the bout, rather than tus-sling for a grip on the jackets.
Ingram, 23, joined a local judo club in Coventry after his elder brother Joe, who narrowly missed selection for the Paralympics, took up the sport. He stopped for three years while studying in Cornwall because of a lack of top-class facilities but returned to the sport in 2006 and finished second in the World Championships last year. Now training full-time in Edinburgh, he is working on a particular move that he and Steve Gawthorpe, the national coach for the visually impaired, call the Subduer. Opponents in Beijing had better beware.
Dame Tanni Grey-Thompson, 39, Britain’s most successful Paralympian with 16 medals, 11 of them gold, will be following events in China with interest. “My goal was never to be Britain’s greatest competitor in the Paralympics,” she says. “It was to fulfil my potential. And now I will be able to watch and applaud others doing the same.”
Among the international stars poised to make an impact next month is Chantal Petitclerc, 38, the Canadian wheelchair athlete who won five gold medals and broke three world records at the 2004 Paralympics. She lost the use of her legs after an accident at the age of 13, and was introduced to swimming by a teacher in an effort to build up her strength. Later she switched to wheelchair racing.
Her 800m victory at the 2002 Commonwealth Games in Manchester made history because it was included in Canada’s medal tally for the whole Games. Previously, disabled events had been classed as demonstration sports, and therefore excluded from each country’s overall total.
“At last, it’s a sport which counts for our country,” Petitclerc said. “We have been fighting for this for years, so this medal has a special meaning.” In Beijing she is expected to compete in the 100m, 200m, 400m, 800m and 1500m.
Natalie du Toit and Oscar Pistorius will be looking to win Paralympic gold for South Africa. Du Toit, 24, had been aiming for a place in the able-bodied swimming team at the 2004 Games before she lost a leg in a motorcycle accident. She achieved her Olympics dream in China last week with a place in the 10km open-water swim, coming 16th, and will take part in a number of events at the Paralympics.
Pistorius, 21, a double amputee who runs on curved blades, won his legal campaign to be allowed to compete in the able-bodied Games but failed to make the 400m qualifying time. At the Paralympics he will be seeking to improve his times in the 100m, 200m and 400m - before resuming his quest to run in the London Olympics in 2012.
What to watch
The Beijing Paralympic Games, which take place on September 6-17, feature events such as boccia (similar to bowls), goalball and wheelchair fencing Competitors in the Paralympics are grouped in classes according to the nature of their disabilities Live television coverage will be shown on BBC1, BBC2 and British Eurosport. You can also follow the latest action at www.timesonline.co.uk/olympics
The 2012 Paralympics in London will be held on August 29-September 9

23 August 2008

Teen overcomes scoliosis


DANVILLE — Courtney Godley watched her dad, Pastor Rod Godley, fill out a medical form at the eye doctor about her. In the section that asked about her health issues, Rod wrote “scoliosis.”

“No, Dad,” Courtney corrected him when she saw what he’d written. “I had scoliosis.”

The worst part of overcoming her scoliosis through spinal surgery was that it delayed when Courtney would get her driver’s license.

The best part? She can put scoliosis behind her forever.

Courtney, a 16-year-old Danville High School sophomore, was born with a greater chance than most of developing the abnormal curvature of the spine. Although the cause of most cases of scoliosis remains unknown, the condition does run in families.

Heidi Godley, Courtney’s mom, knew her daughter was at risk for scoliosis — Heidi’s own mom had it. Besides the genetic link, more girls than boys are affected.

Fortunately, neither Heidi nor her two sisters who made up the family’s set of triplets, had shown any signs of the condition. Courtney didn’t start showing any signs of having the condition until she was an eighth-grader at North Ridge Middle School.

According to the Mayo Clinic Web site, http://www.mayoclinic.com, “Scoliosis is often first noticed around the time of adolescence, during a growth spurt. Growth is often the cause for worsening of an existing curve.”

Courtney had experienced what she and her parents considered to be growing pains. At times, they also blamed her back pain on long trips she made as part of her show choir group the Radiant Reds’ competition schedule.

But during a routine physical, Carle Clinic-Danville Nurse Practitioner Jan Byrne ran her hand down Courtney’s back.

“Because of the family history,” Heidi said, “we always had her back checked.”

This time, though, that check aroused Byrne’s suspicions. Byrne, a member of Courtney’s dad’s congregation at Vermilion Heights Christian Church, ran her hand down the teen’s back again at church.

“I never saw (scoliosis) progress so rapidly,” Byrne said. “This was very dramatic. I told the parents we had to do something right away.”

The family sought treatment for Courtney at the Carle Spine Institute in Urbana. A brace was prescribed as the first course of treatment, a common practice when the patient is still growing and the curve is greater than 20 per cent. Courtney fell into that category.

The hard plastic brace Courtney first wore conformed to her body and put corrective force on her spine. She kept it on 20-22 hours a day from April-August 2007.

“The brace was so restrictive,” Courtney said. “It got really hot.

“Plus,” she said, “it didn’t really work.”

Another, more intricate and expensive brace came next. Courtney wore that one until January 2008. It was made of canvas straps that fastened with Velcro, more flexible and cooler than the first one.

But it didn’t work either. Surgery was needed to keep Courtney’s already dramatic spinal curvature from worsening.

According to the Mayo Clinic’s Web site, among the complications scoliosis may cause if it progresses unchecked are lung and heart damage and chronic back problems.

Dr. Robert Hurford, orthopedic spine surgeon at Carle Spine Institute in Urbana, performed a six-hour operation on Courtney.

“Most people (with scoliosis) don’t need surgery,” Hurford said. “Scoliosis is generally benign and self-limited. The vast majority of people need not worry (about it).

“About 1 in 1,000 cases requires surgery,” Hurford said. “We use rods and screws to correct the curve(s). We fuse the bones.

“The prognosis after surgery is very good. Any discomfort goes away and typically there are no further problems.”

Courtney’s recovery has followed that pattern. She spent six days in the hospital following the surgery, but she missed eight weeks of school after she returned home.

“We had so much love and support from our congregation,” Rod said. “We don’t have any family in the area — the church is our family.”

“She worked hard to keep on track,” Heidi said. “She kept her grades up, and she had enough credits to move on to her sophomore year.”

Courtney’s 16th birthday fell around the time of her surgery, so she missed the driver’s education course. But she’s more than ready for that challenge. Courtney looks forward to taking driver’s education in school this year.


Signs and symptoms of scoliosis:

--Uneven shoulders.

--One shoulder blade that appears more prominent than the other.

--Uneven waist.

--One hip higher than the other.

--Leaning to one side.


Causes of scoliosis:

--Most causes are idiopathic (can’t be identified).

--Sometimes, a neuromuscular system disease, a leg-length discreency or a birth defect.

--Can begin during fetal development.

--Can be a birth defect that appears with other congenital problems.


--Spinal cord and brainstem abnormalities.

NOT causes:

--Poor posture.

--Poor diet.

--Lack of exercise.

--Backpack use.

(Source: http://www.mayoclinic.com)

22 August 2008

And finally, the finale... Join in the handover celebration

TEESSIDERS are invited to join the UK in a mass celebration this Sunday as the Olympic flag is handed over to London for the 2012 games.

From 2pm until 5.30pm Middlesbrough centre square will become a hub of activity with residents able to take part in a variety of sporting and cultural activities.

The day will include performances from Middlesbrough Youth Dance Academy and the Gandinis Circus.

People will be able to watch the Olympic closing ceremony live from Beijing on the big screen.

And the square will be helping to unite the UK in song at 4pm.

Sing the Nation will see regions across the UK holding a mass sing-a-long led by community choirs.

Each town or city will sing one song at the same time that connects to that location.

Teesside-based international performer Richard Grainger will perform Middlesbrough’s song “One People (shoulder to shoulder)”.

The song was originally recorded with children from Lingdale and Abingdon Primary School in Middlesbrough. The latter adopted the song as their daily anthem.

Redcar and Cleveland, and Stockton Borough council will both be holding flag raising ceremonies.

These take place 2pm at Tees Barrage and at 2.30pm on Redcar sea front opposite Bath Street.

Stockton’s flag will be raised by Olympic gymnast Craig Heap, and Redcar’s by Mayor Councillor Mike Findley.

More than 400 councils across the country have arranged events to mark the

Natalie Bartley: Men climb Kilimanjaro in wheelchairs

By Natalie Bartley

Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro, the largest mountain in Africa, is not easy under the best circumstances.

In June, four climbers from Idaho - two of them using special wheelchairs designed for off-road travel - took on the famed 19,340-foot mountain.

Tom McCurdy of Pocatello uses a wheelchair because of an injury sustained in the Army in 1987, when an armored military vehicle trapped him against a wall. The incident resulted in paralysis below the waist. It hasn't stopped him from enjoying sports and outdoor challenges. He's been to Mount Everest in Nepal, holds the Pocatello Marathon's wheelchair record and won a 400-meter bronze metal at the Pan American Games.

McCurdy's 14-year-old son, Sage, and Idaho State University graduate Kyle Packer, of Effingham, Ill., also took part in the Mount Kilimanjaro climb in Tanzania.

Packer has cerebral palsy. He used a wheelchair for the climb and "walked" on his knees using rubberized kneepads whenever he was in camp.

Packer and McCurdy are members of ISU's Cooperative Wilderness Handicapped Outdoor Group (CW HOGS). In 1998, the two made it to the 17,600-foot elevation base camp on Mount Everest, joining CW HOG founder Tom Whitaker. Whitaker was the first disabled person to make his way to the top of the world's highest peak, located at 29,035 feet.

An outcome of the Everest adventure was Packer and McCurdy's goal to climb Kilimanjaro, one of the most popular mountain climbing destinations in the world.

Dana Olson-Elle, director of ISU's Outdoor AdventureCenter, joined the group on the Kilimanjaro climb. "The thing that I appreciate most is their drive and wanting to go and do activities that are challenging to any individual. They do not let their challenges keep them from living their dreams," she said.

The four Idahoans hooked up with outfitter Adventures Within Reach, which coordinated the trip through an African outfitter.

Only six wheelchair users have gone up the mountain since 2003, the first time someone ascended in a wheelchair.

"I was not out to make a world record or make a statement," said McCurdy. "For me, it was being part of a trip and introducing my son to adventure travel."

Though the mountain is not a technical climb, ascending Kilimanjaro is considered a strenuous journey along rocky trails at high altitude.

During the seven-day trip, the Idahoans took the Rongai route on the mountain's north side and descended on the south side. The group trekked through five major ecological zones.

McCurdy and Packer rolled themselves uphill assisted by porters and guides. There was no way to keep the wheelchairs - which have wide wheels on each side and a volleyball-like front tire - from rolling backward, so the porters and climbers spent lots of energy fighting gravity.

Near the summit, the group opted to camp above Kibo huts. The huts, at 15,416 feet, typically serve as the launching point for climbers on the final climb to the summit. Camping above Kibo huts meant that the porters were not acclimatized to staying overnight at the higher altitude beyond the huts before the final ascent to the peak.

Thinner air, combined with pushing wheelchairs up the mountain, added to the physical nature of the porters' climbs and some had symptoms of altitude sickness.

"It was amazing to see their drive and willingness to push on," Olson-Elle said.

An Idaho climber also was feeling ill the morning of the summit climb, so the group decided not to urge the guides and porters farther up the mountain. Instead, they selected Sage McCurdy to make the trek to the summit with a guide.

Sage made it to Gillman's Point at 18,630 feet on Kibo, one of the three extinct volcanoes on Mount Kilimanjaro. He said the highlight of the climb was "the view at the top and the accomplishment of being there."

Climbing big mountains is a journey as well as a destination. Experiences beyond the climbing add to the trip. The Idaho group enjoyed meeting climbers from all over the world.

"The challenge of the situation was exciting," Tom McCurdy said. "Every moment is fresh and every moment is challenging." He enjoyed negotiating the terrain, putting people's ideas together to generate a solution and working through language barriers.

Dealing with the altitude, keeping clean, avoiding illness and staying healthy were the additional challenges confronting the climbers.

Sage is proud of his dad. "He is a very strong man, both physically and mentally. He is smart and determined but is always looking out for other people," Sage said.

The Idaho team is already rethinking their wheelchair selection for future mountain climbing adventures. Packer is striving to raise funds for another ascent of Kilimanjaro.

Natalie Bartley is a freelance outdoors writer. Her column runs Thursdays in Idaho Outdoors. Natalie can be contacted by e-mail: natbartley@earthlink.net

Balloons in my spine changed my life!

A MERSEYSIDE woman whose back was crushed in a go-karting accident can walk again after balloons were inserted into her spine.

Christine McFarlane spent three months doubled over in pain after she crashed on a track in north Wales during a family holiday.

She became the first person in Merseyside to have a medical procedure called kyphoplasty, labelled “botox for the back” by ageing Hollywood stars.

The treatment involves inserting balloons in the spine and blowing them up so cement can be injected into the cracks.

Before the procedure at Liverpool’s Walton centre at Fazakerley hospital, Ms McFarlane was in pain for three months and unable to stand up.

Three hours later, the keen dancer was on the road to recovery.

The 56-year-old, of Laxey Street, Toxteth, today said: “It is just amazing – a miracle. “I do not know about botox for the back. I am just glad to be on my feet.”

Ms McFarlane’s troubles started when she went go-karting with her grandson. She pulled in to end a lap but hit a bollard.

For several minutes, the grandmother-of-five was unable to move and struggled to tell people what was wrong.

She was taken to hospital, but doctors could not see any broken bones on her X-rays.

When the pain continued, she was referred to the Walton centre. Doctors discovered she had broken a bone in her spine, which had collapsed and fallen on to the next bone, causing agonising pain.

She was then told about kyphoplasty, a new procedure which Dr Kumar Das had studied in the USA.

Ms McFarlane said: “I was bent over and could not straighten up because of the pain for three months.

“I had to stop my part-time bar work and looking after my little grandson Joe, because I could not lift him up.

“I love dancing, salsa and jive in particular, but after the accident, I could not do anything.”

Ms McFarlane was operated on just before Christmas. She now looks after her grandson again and danced at a 50th birthday party recently.

She said: “Now I am back to normal, I am running like a loon, and when I go out, I dance my legs off.”

Doctors discovered Ms McFarlane was prone to fractures because she has osteoporosis, which she now takes medication for.

Kyphoplasty is used by Hollywood’s older actresses to rid themselves of an ageing stoop. The Walton centre only uses it to relieve pain.

The balloons shore up the affected bone and hold it in place while bone cement is injected.

The procedure takes less than an hour and is performed at only a handful of British hospitals.

Dr Das said: “Fractures of the spine used to be largely ignored, because there are few options. This procedure restores quality of life.”

21 August 2008

Clever cerebral palsy treatment gets kids back on their feet

Children with cerebral palsy at a specialist center in Shanghai get intensive treatment that combines Chinese and Western methods. The program is developed by Shanghai women Lu Shunling and works with children as young as one year old.

AN inventive treatment method - devised by a Shanghai woman and combining some of the best ideas from China and abroad - is helping to get young cerebral palsy sufferers moving towards a better life, writes Sam Riley.A unique program using traditional Chinese medicine and massage is giving young cerebral palsy sufferers a chance to lead an independent life.Developed by Lu Shunling - who has battled the debilitating disorder that leaves sufferers unable to control their muscles and movement - the program has had a dramatic effect, allowing once bedridden children to lead relatively normal lives.

The program at the CereCare Wellness Center for Children in Shanghai's Xuhui District involves regular acupressure massage and was developed by the 70-year-old Lu when she was a young woman after conventional treatment for CP had failed.Acupressure is an ancient form of healing similar to acupuncture but where no needles are used.Lu's sister Iris Sung, a director at the center, says Lu found the acupressure massage and traditional Chinese medicine worked very well on her, so she learned and adapted a treatment program to help other CP sufferers."They didn't know my sister had cerebral palsy until she was 18 and she underwent all types of very painful treatment. But she found acupressure to be the best," Sung says. "Seven acupressurists became her teachers and she learned the best from everyone.

Then she developed her own style and program of acupressure which is really effective."The treatment, along with an education program that involves rehabilitation, aims to loosen the joints and muscles, allowing children to better control their movements.The CereCare Wellness Center treats 32 children between the ages of one and 12. In addition to physical therapies, the center also provides basic education classes with the aim that the children will eventually be at the stage where they can attend a normal school.Cerebral palsy is one of the most common childhood disorders that is caused by damage to one or more specific areas of the brain, usually during fetal development, or before the child is three years of age. The damage to areas in the brain governing movement disrupts the brain's ability to control movement and posture.

Many CP sufferers do not suffer a mental disability and with early physical rehabilitation can go on to live normal lives."Some of the children we have at our center are very smart so it is important they receive the right early treatment so they can go to a normal school and fulfill their potential," Sung says.The earlier a child with CP receives regular rehabilitation, the better their prospects of being self sufficient, she says.The children live at the center full-time so they can undergo consistent and intense rehabilitation which includes three sessions a week of acupressure massage.

The aim of the massage is to relax the children so acupuncture needles are not used and instead the therapist applies pressure to points that coincide with major organs in the body."Our purpose is to relax them so we just use acupressure and we sing, talk and tell them stories so they are not scared," Sung says."If a child has CP, the internal organs must also be very tight and not functioning properly. So for the first couple of months we focus on fixing the internal organs through the massage. "This improves their appetite, allows them to absorb nutrition and build their muscles and then we work on their rehabilitation."The children also receive what is known as "conductive education," using a process of basic classes and physical rehabilitation developed in Hungary.The combination of TCM and massage program and the Hungarian rehabilitation system has been so successful that some former students at the center now work there as therapists helping the next generation of children with CP.

Sung says the center is the last hope for many parents who mistakenly believed there was nothing that could be done for their child.The center is a non-profit organization but the cost of full-time care for a child is approximately 3,000 yuan (US$437) per semester. With many parents unable to meet the full cost, Sung says sponsorship is vital.Sponsors can directly sponsor a child and the center has held a number of events where sponsors can meet their child and see their progress. Last week the center held a yoga workshop with the children, at Y+ Yoga Center in Xintiandi. The event was designed to raise awareness of CP as well as provide therapeutic benefits for the children, with yoga and stretching helping to relax their muscles.This week the center also held a sports day where children with CP partnered with an able-bodied child to compete in a range of events.

Sung says the center is always looking for volunteers to assist in a range of day-to-day activities.Mette Strand is a Norwegian medical student who has spent six months volunteering at the center.The 19-year-old says she started helping with simple tasks such as helping with feeding but once she was better trained, she began teaching basic classes, including English."When I arrived I was working with some children who could not stand, and to see them take their first steps and now to see them walking is fantastic. Their progress is very inspiring," she says.

For more information on CereCare Wellness Center call 5349-4313, ext 26 (Chinese only) or email the center via its Website at www.cerecare.net.

20 August 2008

Nothing comes from wanting but doing

I am lucky My parents adopted me in 1973 after being their foster child for 7 yrs. The one problem being in care is: institutionalization. In this type of environment my needs were met but my social skills and self efficacy skills were not nutured. Being disabled I soon realized I was different and no one cared about my sense of self worth. All humans need nuturing and positive re-inforcement while in their pre cognitive learning stages. We should be more active in goal setting and allow children in care to become more self determined to choices.If social services had taught me to ask for things and allowed me to make choices rather then just controlling lives and being the "all knowing" state agency. I believe with no uncertency that I would today be more in control and more empowered to take action in self determining my goals and dreams .So when you r wondering what to do when lost or you just dont know where to turn ,call an agency that may deal with that issue and dont allow them to blow you off ,be persistant and understand you deserve better and if you network enough you will prevail.I'm 49 and still going after my dream of being a recording artist . I plan on pursueing and starting a program for disabled musicians to be seen and heard by studio executives as mandated in the federal disabilities act . We need representation at all levels of Government the larger the group the more people wil change policies.

Believing you are the best: attempt ,adapt and overcome

I remember once somebody told me ,I was a dreamer and reality was I needed to just accept my short comings.I was so pissed I went out and performed for free at a local pub.I was asked back and the owner said "why are you limping?" I have Cerebral palsy" I replied.He feed me. after my gig he took a tip jar and said give this boy a hand with his gear and reach into your wallets ,he's disabled and trying to be self supporting. That was 25 yrs ago and thats what I remember unfortunitly our attitudes have changed the "me" generation has forgotton about being grateful for opportunities ,"Rights" seem to be more important then compassion ,helping someone less fortunate then yourself.We (differentlyabled) can be the voice of change by Networking and getting envolved politcally in both State and Federal bodies. I have been blessed with Cerebral Palsy ,because I am an inspiration to many People some I do not know but have heard from reliable sources. My cd is a good example of goodness of others it was done for free and played on Wolf 97.4 fm in Prince George B C Canada.Faith and getting out there works .Yet sometimes the road gets confusing when your body ,brain doesn't seem to fire properly.I do get tired and all of a sudden !......... I can't remember where I am or my legs start shaking and It can be embarassing when up on stage!!!! but all in all I say all is good when you let people know what you need and want dreams are reality if you are willing to go through the fire to to yourself that you can god bless ,The "California Kidd" "Never give in or UP!"

Law of Attraction

Patience,is a vertue .A smile even though your in pain; is infectious.who knows why I was born with a developmental disability?I do know I struggle without any real solid Government aid ,mostly due to not knowing who or how to navigate the system.I also feel social workers and the system are plagued with a work load by client who want an easier lifestyle. What is a disability? the word means :un-able to do.Very few of us are truly disabled.A better focus should be on one's degree's of ability.I have always worked to support myself mostly taking paycuts to have the job.I also have gone to school to achieve an AA degree in Social Services despite have moderate LD. There is a theory that says one will influence by law of attraction ,what does this mean? I smile ,Iam giving and cooperative but I still am measuredby my not quite average ability which has placed me in an un-equal and psychological depression as to hopelessness and frustration.I have played w/many Stars in my pursuit of my dreams:The late :Waylon Jennings In 82,Mac Wiesman 81,JJ Cale On a Jam in76.I have loved every minute But I still haven't achieved a consistancy in the music field people want "Blonde hair ,Blue eyed and moderately talanted 19 yr. olds.! All I have ever asked for is a ligitamate chance to live my dream and be self sufficient. I will someday meet some one who judges on heart ,and desire and talent . Go after your dreams ! Never Give In or Up.Your Dreams are important too.

19 August 2008

Our dream turned into a nightmare

IT WAS supposed to be the most magical moment of Sally Johnson's life.

As midwives placed her new born baby boy in her arms, she looked down adoringly into his little face - and realised he was not breathing.

Within seconds the delivery room at Wordlsey Hospital in Dudley went into overdrive as nurses and specialists began the battle to revive baby Owen.

That moment was nine years ago and in the intervening years Sally has battled - not only to get the best services for her son, whose lack of oxygen at birth led to him having cerebral palsy, but also to cope with its effect on herself.

The family hit the headlines this summer when Owen was finally awarded an £8 million payout at the High Court to pay for his needs for the rest of his life.

But what about Sally's needs? How does a mum cope with a birth trauma on such a massive scale?

Although this summer Dudley Group of Hospitals NHS Trust accepted responsibility, Sally spent years blaming herself for Owen's health problems.

In reality, there was nothing she could have done.

Midwives and nurses managing the birth at Wordsley Hospital did not call for an obstetrician after an abnormal test showed foetal distress during birth and as a result Owen experienced near total asphyxia, cutting off oxygen to his brain.

Independent medical experts found that Owen should have been born 17 minutes earlier when he would have been born "neurologically intact".

But initially, Sally and her husband Paul, had no idea what had happened.

"They put Owen on me and they let his dad cut the cord," recalls Sally, now aged 34.

"I knew immediately that there was something wrong. I had read so many books and seen so much stuff on the television about giving birth that I knew how the baby was supposed to be and he wasn't doing anything. He wasn't crying. He wasn't breathing."

As health specialists dashed in, Owen was resuscitated, placed in an incubator and rushed to the special care baby unit.

All the while his parents were in shock.

"He was our very special baby. We had planned so much and we had really wanted this baby and suddenly this was all happening," says Sally.

"It was just mayhem. I just kept having visions of someone standing over me saying 'I'm really sorry....'

"It felt like forever before he gave a gasp of air and they took him off to an incubator to the special care unit."

The couple were lost in a sea of uncertainty.

"It was 10.25pm when I had him but it was 1.30am before we were taken down to the unit. We were just left in a room until then," says Sally. "And when I saw him, nothing had prepared me for what I saw. He was so tiny and there were just all of these tubes everywhere. I couldn't hold him, all I could do was put my hand in and touch him.

"They told us the next 24 hours were crucial and we had a very poorly child but no-one could tell us what was happening or why."

Owen proved to be a little fighter. Within two days his condition had stabilised a nd in two weeks he was allowed back at the family's Dudley home. But the couple's nightmare was not over as they gradually discovered all of the health problems Owen had - and battled to find the truth.

"I hated myself," says Sally.

"I just kept asking 'what I had done?' and 'why me?' I had tried to do everything right but I kept thinking there must have been something I had done.

"We had a meeting with the hospital to try to find out if it was something we had done and they told us it was 'just one of those things'."

After nine months the couple were given Owen's diagnosis - he had cerebral palsy.

It helped immensely to have a diagnosis and to begin to plan for the future but even then the couple were finding it hard to cope.

"I was losing weight, I had all my hair cut off, I stopped caring what I looked like," says Sally.

"It was a really hard time. Anyone with a baby knows how hard it was but I had no experience at all of a child with special needs. All the babies I had held before had been healthy babies so I kept worrying about every single thing.

"I wasn't given any counselling and there wasn't any help for me. I did have anti-depressants for a short time but I didn't want to become reliant on them. My friends and family were there and Paul was doing all he could but he had to go to work and I just felt so isolated at home trying to cope.

"I felt all alone and it would have helped me so much if I had had someone to talk to and to help me."

The family wanted to do their best for Owen and, with the help of funding from Caudwell Children, he attended the Foundation for Conductive Education in Cannon Hill Park in Birmingham which specialises in helping child ren with conditions such as Cerebral Palsy. He also attends, and loves, Sledmere Primary School in Dudley.

But it has very often been an uphill battle ensuring all the appropriate support is in place, not least a five year battle for compensation for their son.

Over the years Owen has learned to talk, walk, feed himself and develop other movements, skills and interests.

Sadly his parents are now separated, although Paul, a 42-year-old brick layer, is still very much a hands-on dad.

"Paul is the best dad Owen could have," says Sally. "But with everything that was going on we just couldn't get on together any more."

Owen has turned out to be cheerful and bright as a button.

"He is quite intellectual and loves things like history," says Sally. "He is very lively and is always on the go. He loves all sports but his favourite is golf. He goes to the Adventure Golf at Star City as often as he can - they say he goes more than the professional golfers!"

Receiving the compensation has finally given the family space. Sally is preparing to move herself and Owen into a new bungalow in Moseley which can be adapted to meet the youngster's needs and the family are able to pay for care to ensure Sally is able to have some time to herself.

"At one point we were looking at having to sell our home to pay for the therapy that Owen needed," she says. "It is such a relief to know that Owen will now be cared for for all his life.

"We adore Owen. He is a very special child, CP or no CP, and there is a very special bond between us."

The chance to live a full life

Young people with learning disabilities need better options when they leave school, writes Janet Murray
Janet Murray
The Guardian

When Sam, her daughter, left school, Carol Robbie hoped she would continue her education. But when her college application was turned down, her mother didn't know where to turn. Sam, who has severe learning disabilities, dyspraxia, attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and autism, had very limited options.
"I could understand why the college said no," says Robbie. "Given her needs, they felt they couldn't guarantee Sam's safety. Still, I was absolutely gutted."
Robbie needed to continue working full time, so day care was the only option. But Robbie was unhappy with her local respite centre: "The carers were nice, but the activities on offer were totally inappropriate. There was no progression. It seemed more about keeping Sam occupied than helping her move on."
There are an estimated 210,000 people with severe and profound learning disabilities in England. Many young people, like Sam, end up in inappropriate adult day centres once they have left school or find themselves isolated, without any services. Fewer than one in 20 go into paid work.
A government white paper called Valuing People, published in 2001, promised greater rights, inclusion, independence and choice for young people with learning difficulties. It recognised the need to start planning their transition to college or work from the age of 14.
Research carried out by the Norah Fry research centre a year later suggested a fifth of young people had left school without a transition plan. Almost half had little or no involvement in planning for their future. There were few options available to them, particularly when it came to employment.
In Valuing People, the government recognised that some college courses and some day-care provision were unsuitable for young adults with learning disabilities. Inappropriate courses and day care were cut, but in many cases they have not been replaced with something better.
A recent Learning and Skills Council (LSC) report shows college places have been cut by almost 15%.
Provision is patchy and access to opportunities can be a postcode lottery. But there are examples of good practice.
The Leighton project in Camden, north London, helps 16- to 25-year-olds move into paid work, training or further education.
The two-year programme, currently funded by the LSC, offers life skills, vocational training and a three-month work experience placement, one day a week.
Work placements
Yagmir Onglu, 22, has just finished a placement at Highgate library, helping with shelving, tidying and issuing books. She says: "Since I started the course I feel like a grown-up person. I'm an adult now, not a baby."
Kevin Riley, 21, did his work experience at John Lewis on Oxford Street. He shadowed another employee, helping to put stock on the shelves. With the support of project staff, he was able to travel independently to work from his home in Tottenham.
Before this, both Onglu and Riley had completed various college courses, typical of those available to young adults with learning disabilities. These may suit some, says project manager Jenny Pounde, but for many, there is a lack of progression.
"The frustrating thing is that after two years with us, some of our young people do get to the point where they are ready to work," says Pounde. "They need some support to get started, perhaps for someone to work alongside them for a few weeks or months, but there is no funding for that. Fast-forward a few months, and they can be back to square one."
Employers can be reluctant to provide opportunities for young people with learning disabilities, particularly as some can only manage part-time work and often need to work close to home.
Rabbi Yitzchak Freeman, chief executive of the special-needs charity Kisharon, which provides care and education for members of the Jewish community with learning disabilities, agrees there is very little funding for supported employment.
He cites an example of a pilot scheme in north London that had £150,000 worth of funding to employ 15 "job coaches" to support young adults with learning disabilities. "The funding dried up after a year, and that was the end of that," he says.
Low expectations
Freeman believes employers are missing out. "Unfortunately, as a society, we've developed low expectations of people with learning disabilities. It's not uncommon to see people with learning disabilities working in your local supermarket, but that's not the only job they can do.
"They can be such a great asset. They are highly motivated, reliable, have a positive attitude, a good work ethic and can offer a good length of service."
At Kisharon's Asher Loftus business centre, a social enterprise for young adults with learning disabilities, positions are on offer in a variety of businesses, including a bike shop, repair workshop, print shop and wood turning.
"In our print shop, they are creasing, folding, stapling, packaging and stuffing envelopes. In the cycle shop, we've been able to train young adults with learning difficulties to do routine bike servicing - dismantling, lubricating, reassembling the bikes," says Freeman.
He believes the government has a responsibility to support the commercial sector to provide suitable employment opportunities, perhaps providing tax breaks or other incentives.
Employers, too, must face up to their responsibilities. According to the Disability Discrimination Act, employers are legally obliged to make reasonable adjustments to help disabled people to work. "For those with learning disabilities, a reasonable adjustment might be to offer a verbal application process and a trial period," says Freeman.
Government promises
Valuing People Now, a white paper published last December, has acknowledged the shortcomings of Valuing People. The government is promising £19m in funding for transition support and a transition plan for every young person, with the aim of getting them into college or employment when they leave school.
After a year in an unsuitable day-care centre, Sam Robbie's mother heard about a residential centre for young adults with similar levels of disability.
"Some people think that I'm heartless putting my daughter into residential care, but actually I'm giving her some independence, moving her on.
"She's in a more stimulating environment, she has friends. She's been to see Mamma Mia!, had a caravan holiday, gone bowling, and learned circus skills. She's learned to make her bed, she's done ironing. I'd never have been able to do that with her at home.
"What is important at this stage is that she is progressing, becoming more independent and leading a full life, which she has every right to do. I realise we are lucky. If we lived in a different part of the country, it could have been a completely different story."
· The charity Enable Scotland has produced a free CD-rom to guide young people through the transition to adulthood.