Liu Rui, a 12-year-old boy, stands tall in the middle of the room, with his arms resting lightly on forearm crutches for support. Balloons, music, and cake indicate that this is a party. Liu Rui, his family, and his rehabilitation team have gathered to celebrate his achievements. Liu Rui has a diagnosis of cerebral palsy. Cerebral palsy is a condition one is born with and which impairs one’s ability to move. As of summer 2014, Liu Rui was spending the majority of the day in a wheelchair and he needed help from his family to dress and take care of his personal needs . Liu Rui’s family sought out physical therapy at Beijing United Rehabilitation Hospital (BJURH) in order to enhance his independence in walking and taking care of himself. Their hope was that rehabilitation would help him develop the skills to one day have the opportunity to live and work independently. Therapists from Eliott’s Corner collaborate with BJURH to provide children, including Liu Riu, the highest quality multidisciplinary therapy at the hospital. Our multidisciplinary team at BJURH involves the collaboration of pediatricians, physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech and language pathology, and psychology. Liu Rui started physical therapy with the highly qualified, international team from Eliott’s Corner in July 2014 at BJURH. Liu Rui and his uncle committed to 2 hours of physical therapy, 5 days a week. This high intensity is not needed for all children with cerebral palsy or other difficulties, but was indicated in Liu Rui’s case. For Liu Rui, the goal of physical therapy was to improve his strength, balance, endurance, and coordination in order for him to gain independence in walking and other activities like dressing and bathing. Liu Riu’s physical therapists from Eliott’s Corner developed a treatment plan for him, which included walking on a specialized treadmill and over the ground, leg and core strengthening exercises, balance activities, and functional tasks like climbing stairs. Every therapeutic activity was chosen specific to Lui Rui’s condition and to facilitate his functional independence. Liu Rui’s treatment plan also included aquatic therapy. In aquatic therapy, the physical therapist used the unique and motivating environment of the swimming pool to engage Liu Rui in activities to build strength and endurance.
Physical therapists tailor therapeutic activities to the needs of each child and family. For example, opportunities for play were included in each intervention to ensure Liu Rui actively engaged in each activity and remained motivated. One of Liu Rui’s favorite activities involved standing and reaching in all directions for balls and throwing them at towers of blocks. He often competed against his uncle to be the first to knock all of the blocks down. While Liu Rui focused on the game, he simultaneously was working on standing balance, strength, and endurance. This active engagement in interventions was a key factor in Liu Rui’s successful outcome. It is also the role of the physical therapist to assist the child and family in attaining equipment appropriate for their needs. Lui Rui’s therapists worked with local suppliers in Beijing to provide Lui Rui with effective, custom fit lower leg braces and a rolling walker. With training and targeted therapeutic interventions Liu Rui was able to use the braces and walker to walk independently both at home and in the community. He even earned a “drivers license” for his walker by demonstrating to his therapists that he could use it independently for tasks like going up and down a curb and moving to and from a dining table. Surrounding Liu Rui at his party in February 2015 were his physical therapists and administrative staff from BJURH and Eliott’s Corner, and his BJURH pediatrician, Dr. Song Xiao Yan, MD. Dr. Song expressed gratitude to the Eliott’s Corner team, “ Thank you to your team so much for the great work of Liu Rui! We will make the ‘magic’ affect more kids in the future!” Liu Rui’s uncle was also honored at the celebration. His uncle participated in most physical therapy sessions and supported Liu Rui by working with him on activities the therapists recommended at home. This was essential in achieving Liu Rui’s excellent progress. At the party, Liu Rui’s uncle shared that he is excited for Liu Rui’s next phase of life. His uncle expressed that with Liu Rui’s increased independence, the family is making plans for him to attend a mainstream school and that he looks forward to seeing Liu Rui make more friends his own age.