Monday, April 30, 2007

ABR Canada

We're home from our week long adventure in Montreal, Canada... and what an adventure it was! Our ABR commitment is now in full swing.

After getting bumped from our second flight last Saturday, spending the night in DC in a dumpy hotel, enduring two more flights on Sunday and 3 hours of driving we finally made it to the ABR center in Montreal 3 hours late for the first event. Although it couldn't be helped we still felt frustrated and very tired. Fortunately the ABR staff was flexible and arranged for us to make up the presentation that we missed later in the week.

Monday we started our intense training. Driving to the center from our hotel proved to be more of a challenge than we had bargained for. It was a good thing my mom remembers her years of French that she took in school b/c we didn't see very many English signs to follow!

Three trainers devoted their time to coach three sets of families, at three different times during the day, to perform ABR on their children. Our group met at 4-6:30. There were four families in our group and we got to know each other as the week progressed. I really enjoyed being with other families who could share the emotions and fears of raising kids with significant special needs. Our dreams for our children were one and the same although each child has their unique challenges to overcome. We want to see our kids succeed in life, even if that "success" looks very different than most peoples' definition. We want them to be healthy, comfortable, content, seizure free. To be able to sit up in the bath tub, to enjoy eating... the list could go on and on.

Maybe with ABR we will have the privilege of experiencing some of these things with our kids. The hope is tangible, the determination is fierce and with time the progress will surely follow.

Abby's evaluation with Leonid was very eye opening. He pointed things out that no one else has ever noticed, although Patrick and I have observed them for 3 years now. He explained the reasoning behind much of her weaknesses and pointed out the target spots that ABR will help improve. Abby will have a file that will include loads of photos taken at each eval session, along with video, so we can see her progress unfold at 3 month intervals. In one years' time we all hope to see some significant structural changes.

Here is Abby comfortably positioned for ABR. I was learning how to build the "Dome" of towels.

We quickly discovered that Abby became so comfortable when the ABR was administered correctly that she promptly fell asleep!

Here I am practicing the the shoulder exercise. Looking at Abby's face, you can see that she's not sure what to think of this. Eventually she resorted to relaxing while sucking her thumb.

This is the jaw/larynx exercise. So far this is the hardest one for me.

This trip was such a neat experience for me and a wonderful time for my mom and I to spend some great time together. She was a huge help with everything, but especially in entertaining and caring for little Josiah! Thanks mom, I love you!

Our travels home were almost as exciting as our journey up to Montreal. There were too many funny and irritating experiences to list in this post, but they will make for good story telling some day.

To my incredible surprise and relief I came home to my wonderful husband who had spent hours making a special bench for Abby's ABR therapy!!! It was all put together in our garage when I pulled into our driveway... waiting to be admired. I really couldn't believe it. What a super gift of love, time and sweat. Now we are ready to get started! Thanks Patrick, I love you so much!

Sweet Josiah along for the ride... smiling as usual.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Another Crossroad

We find ourselves at yet another crossroad. In our constant search for anything that might help our little Abby I came across a radical new form of therapy. (I should say new to me)

It's called ABR: Advanced Biomechanical Rehabilitation

Because of my few blundering attempts to describe ABR to therapists and family, I will let the inventor speak for himself. This is taken directly from Leonid Blyum's ABR website. (

"ABR is a unique biomechanically based rehabilitation approach for children and young adults with brain injury that brings predictable recovery of musculoskeletal structure and motor functions."

"ABR is the method of structural correction of musculoskeletal deformities. It is a hands-on method performed by the parents who learn the ABR technique and receive individual prescription of applications from the ABR professional staff."

"ABR in a nutshell
Everyone believes that a CP child has poor functions because his/her brain is too damaged to be able to control normal movements. Respectively CP children are considered incurable because the brain damage is irreversible.
ABR has a different philosophy. We believe that even the badly injured brain has enough electrical plasticity to allow control of normal motor functions, however, for this plasticity to become activated, a child's musculoskeletal structure has to be improved to a sufficient level - to the so-called plasticity threshold."

"While it is commonly believed that a brain injured person needs specific training of his/her motor function - trying to make "better use" of a structurally deficient musculoskeletal system - ABR shows that true biomechanical structural improvement of the musculoskeletal system automatically converts into motor function progress, eliminating any need of specific training to perform motor tasks. Motor function develops as a "spontaneous" result of structural normalization."

"Unfortunately, in traditional medicinal practice the internal organs are looked upon only from the viewpoint of chemical metabolism, while, on the other hand, the biomechanical approach does not normally focus on anything other than the classical skeleton comprised of «muscles and bones».
Strengthening of the smooth muscles induces gradual growth of internal pneumatic capacity, which in a cascade effect restores:
  • volume, shape and strength of the neck and trunk,
  • normal alignment of the joints of the limbs, eliminating spasticity and contractures,
  • normal volume and then strength of weakened skeletal muscles,
  • normal alignment of the shoulder girdle and arms as well as pelvis and legs - allowing normal "insertion" of arms and legs and thus making proper movements possible.
Moreover, restoration of muscular skeletal structure re-establishes normal metabolism (flow of blood and oxygen supply) of 'defective', atrophied muscles and, in addition, normal electrical ascending activity to the brain, opening wide the "back door" to function."

(Back to post) These are just a few statements about ABR on their website. We have found this method of rehab really fascinating. It makes a lot of sense.

After reading as much as I can find on ABR I am amazed to see pictures and read stories about the progress some children are making. We are considering and praying about taking Abby for an evaluation. Unfortunately for us this form of therapy is only taught in Europe, Asia and Canada.

If we decide that ABR would be a great option to try with Abby, we will be taking her to Montreal Canada at the end of October 2007 for an initial evaluation with the inventor, Leonid Blyum. You can read more about him on their website:

We would spend one week at the center, including two hours of instruction and training each day. Mr. Blyum will prescribe specific exercises to do on Abby after her eval and than his staff will train us to do them properly.

This decision to go forward with ABR will require a HUGE commitment in every way for our family. We are required to travel to Canada once a year and then three more times to a satellite center, probably Chicago or Florida for follow up assessments and adjustments to the therapy plan. All center visits will require a week of our time... this means I will probably end up taking Abby alone, leaving Patrick and my little boy behind. ABR is also very expensive. Of course we won't allow expense to keep us from doing what is best for our girl, it just makes the decision to move forward more difficult. Lastly, ABR is measured in hours performed on the child... so they ask parents to commit to 3 hours a day of therapy!! This is going to be a very big challenge for us as much of Abby's day is taken up by tube feedings, resting after the feedings, time at preschool and sleeping. We will have to develop a much more structured approach to her awake time.

I guess this post has become long enough. More thoughts on ABR coming soon... once we learn more about it.

Any input from families already using ABR with their kids is very welcome!!