Happy Hands Camp Combines Therapy with Fun, Friends, and Resources for Home

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In July, Children’s Treatment Network (CTN) and partners at Closing the Gap Healthcare hosted a week-long “Happy Hands modified constraint induced movement therapy (mCIMT) camp” for children ages five to twelve with hemiplegia cerebral palsy. Eight children enjoyed half-days of activities, skill-building and making new friendships at The Common Roof in Barrie.

We asked Jennifer Cheesman, an occupational therapist (OT), and the camp coordinator from Closing the Gap Healthcare, about this unique camp experience for children and their families.

What was the goal for the week of camp?
The goal of mCIMT and bimanual therapy is for children to build function and motor skills in their affected hand and arm.  During the morning, each child practised 1 handed skills when using a constraint splint worn on their dominant hand for blocks of time, as well as 2 handed skills during bimanual activities without the splint.   

Other important goals were: 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.

What does modified constraint induced movement therapy (mCIMT) mean?:
mCIMT constrains a client’s dominant arm and hand by using a cast/splint/mitt, and guiding them through movement activities which they complete using their affected hand.  Traditional CIMT is very time intensive and thus ‘modified’ refers to a modified wearing schedule.

What were your themes for the week?
The themes were such fun for the campers and for the staff!
Monday was “Super Science Day!”
Tuesday was “Superhero Day!”
Wednesday was “Tropical Trip!”
Thursday was “Zoo Trip!”
Friday was “Carnival Party!”
What was your favourite moment?
There were lots of them….

I loved celebrating the success of a child who was so determined to succeed. After several failed attempts, this child was finally able to complete one of the challenging activities on the last day.

On the final day, a mother of a camper commented that she had not seen her son carrying things in BOTH hands before that moment.

When a camper told a camp staff member that he noticed he was using his affected hand when eating at home during the week of camp, without realizing he was doing it, and he said he had never done that before.  

When a camper turned to another camper and said, “Can I be your friend?”.

A younger camper who was reluctant to wear their splint decided to wear it after encouragement from an older camper.

What is the take-away for the parents of the campers? What can they do at home to continue what was learned?
On the Monday, we had a parent session and each family received an information package which included a “Constraint and Bimanual Therapy ‘Hand’ Book” (Holland Bloorview Kids Rehab Hospital, 2016) with suggested activities to do at home to build skills while wearing the splint, and also when using both hands.  Parents also had the chance to join their children for the final carnival on Friday, where the therapy camp staff could demonstrate strategies used throughout the week with their child.  Each camper was able to take their constraint splint home with them for ongoing practice.  Families were also linked with their child’s community OT or an OT working through the CTN spasticity management clinic for follow-up support.  

What are your plans for continuing this camp next year?
Plans for the next mCIMT program are not yet in place.  However, we would love to offer this type of program again in the future – please stay tuned.
How can parents learn more?
If families are interested in learning more about modified CIMT, they can speak with their community occupational therapist.  As well, for research and articles, parents can check out the CanChild website at www.canchild.ca and explore the ‘resources’ section for information about CP and mCIMT.  CanChild is a department of McMaster University, and a partner of Holland Bloorview Kids Rehab.

Visit the ctnsy.ca event calendar for upcoming programs.

Thank you to staff, Stephanie Murphy OT, Sheryl Donaldson OT, Joanna Ellis OTA, and to our volunteer, Laura for helping to make this week such a huge success!