Kids with cerebral palsy achieve goals at Edmonton ‘brain camp’

At the beginning of “brain camp” each of the eight kids attending set a goal to work toward. For Tacee French, the goal is to strengthen her right hand so she can lead a cow by a rope.

Danika Dobson, 9, right, attends a summer camp for pediatric children with cerebral palsy on Thursday, July 26, 2018 in Edmonton. She is working with Dr. John Andersen who is applying brain stimulation to try to improve the way the brain learns to do motor tasks. Greg Southam, Postmedia

Jamie Sarkonak, Edmonton Journal July 27, 2018

“I live on a farm and we show cows,” she said. “One of my goals is to practice leading cows.”

French, and all the other children aged 10 to 12 at the camp, developed cerebral palsy after experiencing a stroke before or within one month after they were born, rendering half of their bodies less functional. The kids are soon to complete a two-week summer camp at Edmonton’s Glenrose Rehabilitation Hospital Friday, where they make arts and crafts between short electrode treatments as part of a national research trial.

Trial participants get 20-minute energy stimulations by wearing a headset while playing games, including stacking foam bricks or molding play dough. Called the “non-invasive brain stimulation research project,” the trial is run by the Canadian CHILD-BRIGHT research network, which aims to improve life for children with brain-based developmental disabilities.

Researchers aim to find out whether the camp’s treatment schedule is effective, said Dr. John Andersen, an attending developmental pediatrician at the Glenrose Rehabilitation Hospital and CHILD-BRIGHT research network member who supervises the Edmonton camp.

“The highlight of the camp has been to see how much fun the kids are having and the opportunity to meet and have fun with other kids that have similar challenges,” said Andersen, also an associate professor at the University of Alberta pediatrics department. “They can talk about their common experiences… and solve problems together.”

French called the camp “like school, but better.” She’s been pulling people at camp up and down hallways in a cart with a rope to work toward her goal. Other camp tasks, themed from different nations around the world, include cooking, crafting, playing iPad games and making chalk art on the pavement outside.

There are about 1,000 children with this form of cerebral palsy in Alberta, Andersen said. There are currently few effective treatments available — while there are intense therapies in practice, doctors are searching for methods that are more efficient.

Funds raised at the 2017 Glenrose Rehabilitation Hospital Foundation Circle of Courage provided $152,000 for the equipment, training and resources for the camp.

Other hospitals participating in the trial include the Alberta Children’s Hospital in Calgary and the Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital in Toronto. By the end of the three years, 80 kids will have participated.

Andersen said the research team is looking for participants for future camps from Edmonton and northern Alberta between the ages of eight and 18.

Source Edmonton Journal

Also see
The University of Calgary Non-invasive Neurostimulation Network: N3 in University of Calgary

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