In July, Children’s Treatment Network (CTN) and its partners at Closing the Gap Healthcare, hosted a week-long “Happy Hands modified constraint induced movement therapy (mCIMT) camp” for children ages five to nine with hemiplegia cerebral palsy.
The six kids, who enrolled, enjoyed half-days of activities, skill-building and making new friendships at The Common Roof in Barrie.
My son LOVED going to camp each day and even made a new friend! My wife and I have already implemented some of the strategies for follow up at home and we’ve noticed our son using his affected arm more automatically! - Parent of one of the campers
We asked Jennifer Cheesman OT Reg. (Ont.), occupational therapist and the camp coordinator from Closing the Gap Healthcare, about this unique camp experience for kids and their families.
CTN: What does mCIMT mean?
Jennifer: mCIMT is a form of therapy characterized by constraining a person’s dominant arm and hand by using a cast, splint or mitt and guiding them through movement activities that they complete using their affected hand. Traditional CIMT is very time-intensive and thus - "modified" refers to a modified wearing schedule.
CTN: What was the goal for the week of camp?
Jennifer: The goal of mCIMT is for children to build motor skills in their affected hand and arm. During our morning sessions, each child practiced one-handed skills when using a constraint splint worn on their dominant hand for blocks of time.
Of course, there were several other important goals as well - for the children to have fun, make friends and build a sense of community with others who understand their challenges. It was also important to us that families gained knowledge and resources in order to help their children build skills and confidence at home.
CTN: What were your themes for week?
Jennifer: We had a blast creating and planning our themes each day! The staff and campers loved the “Happy Birthday, Canada," beach, pirate, safari and carnival fun through the week. Each day focused on activities and even songs related to that theme.
CTN: What were some of your favourite moments?
Jennifer: That’s a tough question - there were so many moments when we were inspired by the kids trying over and over again with such determination! Overall, we noticed a reduction in frustration, as the kids increased their tolerance of wearing splints throughout the week. Of course, we were also happy to see parents connecting with each other and sharing contact information to arrange playdates for their children who formed a friendship at camp.
Some of my favourite moments were when I saw two young campers help one another, both working so hard to use their non-dominant hands toward a common goal of putting on grass skirts, sunglasses, and hats. Another one of our campers was very proud of the work she was doing with BOTH hands and said, “Look at me; I am doing a great job of washing dishes!”
CTN: What is the take-away for parents of the campers? What can they do at home to continue what was learned?
Jennifer: At the end of the week, we had a parent session and each family received an information package which included a “Constraint and Bimanual Therapy ‘Hand’ book” (created by Holland Bloorview Kids Rehab Hospital in 2016) with suggested activities to do at home to build skills while wearing the splint, and also when using both hands. Parents had the chance to join their children for the final ‘carnival’, where the therapy camp staff could demonstrate strategies used throughout the week with the kids. Each camper was able to take their constraint splint home with them for ongoing practice. Families were also linked with their child’s community occupational therapist (OT) or with an OT working through the CTN spasticity management clinic for follow-up support.
CTN: How can parents learn more about CIMT?
Jennifer: If families are interested in learning more about modified CIMT, they can speak with a member of their child’s team or visit the CanChild website to explore more information about cerebral palsy and mCIMT.
Special thank you to the volunteers and the team who ran the camp, Joanna Ellis OTA, Stephanie Murphy OT Reg. (Ont.), Sheryl Donaldson OT Reg. (Ont.), and Dara Beacock OT Reg. (Ont.). We hope to run this camp in the future and will inform parents through their child’s team or on the CTN Events Calendar.