Written by Emily Hayles – Physiotherapist and Owner, and author of ‘Braver than you think: How to help your child with a disability live their best life’
There has been some exciting news about funding for intensive therapy this week!
Although I have not yet seen anything official government or NDIA announcement, fellow therapists and social media pages have been reporting that Greg Hunt, the Federal Health Minister has announced on the weekend that children with physical disabilities can now apply to the NDIS for an additional 250 hours of funding per year to be able to access intensive therapy. This is amazing, and will enable children to gain so much more than was previously possible!!!
At Move and Play, we love being able to provide intensive therapy for our clients because we can see how much they can gain out of it. In this post, we share with you what intensive therapy is, why it is beneficial, and some of our client successes as a result of attending intensive therapy blocks with us.
What is intensive therapy?
Intensive therapy is a way of delivering a high ‘dose’ or a high amount of therapy over a short period of time. For example, a child might attend a block of intensive therapy where they have therapy sessions every day for between 1-3 hours, for 1-3 weeks. The schedule of therapy will vary depending on the child’s goals, their abilities, their age, and their endurance. In contrast, the child’s usual therapy might consist of a one hour appointment per week or fortnight or month.
Intensive therapy does not specifically refer to any type of therapy or technique. It simply refers to the way the therapy is delivered in a high ‘dose’. So, you could attend an intensive therapy block with your speech therapist, your physiotherapist, or your occupational therapist, who could utilise any number of techniques or strategies. However, all intensive therapy (or any therapy!) should always work towards your child’s goals and be helping your child to improve their abilities.
Why is intensive therapy beneficial?
The benefits of intensives relates to the ‘intensity’ of the therapy that is delivered over a short period of time. And by intensity, we don’t necessarily mean muscle burning, high heart rate, lots of sweat and tears – intensity relates to the number of repetitions, or the number of times an activity is repeatedly practiced.
To understand the benefit of intense practice, it is useful to compare intensive therapy to the training programs of elite athletes. Elite athletes practice their skills repetitively – hundreds and thousands of times – constantly improving and refining their skills so they get better, faster and more efficient at their sporting skill. This same process occurs for children attending intensive therapy. By repetitively practicing their skills throughout a block of intensive therapy, your child will be practicing, improving and refining their movement skills so that they get better, faster and more efficient.
These two stories are examples of the gains that some of our clients have made as a result of attending intensive therapy blocks with our therapists.
Mr O is an 18 month old boy with cerebral palsy who attended a therapy block which consisted of 1 hour per day for 1 week. Prior to his therapy block, Mr O was able to sit by himself, was bottom shuffling to get around the floor, and would stand if he was placed in a standing position. During his therapy block he and his therapist worked on repeatedly practicing rotating his trunk, transitions to his hands and knees, and transitions to standing. By the end of the week, Mr O was able to independently crawl, pull to stand, stepping sideways around furniture, and just this week he has trialled a walker and just got up and started walking in it!
Mr R is an almost 7 year old boy with cerebral palsy who attended a 3 week therapy block over the summer school holidays. He attended therapy for 2-2.5 hours per day, 4 days per week. At the beginning of the therapy block, Mr R was struggling to stand up from a sitting position and required a lot of help from his family and therapists and he was finding it difficult to use his new walker. During the therapy block Mr R worked with his therapist on his muscle length and strength, his alignment and strength in standing, and repetitively practicing standing up from a sitting position and shifting his body weight in standing. By the end of his therapy block, Mr R was able to independently stand up from a sitting position without the help of his therapist or family, step to pivot with support, and he is now using his walking frame every lunch time at school.
We are hopeful that the social announcements about additional funding for intensive therapies will be backed up by an official announcement sometime soon. It will be amazing for children and families to be able to access these additional supports!
If you are interested in booking your child in for a block of intensive therapy, please talk to your therapist 🙂