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CIMT Camp at St. Charles Hospital

Therapeutic Summer Camp at St. Charles Improves Function for Children with Hemiparesis

Each summer, St. Charles is home to a very special type of summer camp.

The three-week day camp is for children with upper extremity hemiparesis, a condition involving paralysis or semi-paralysis of the arm and hand on one side of the body. Campers participate in recreational activities while their stronger arm is constrained in a cast. This form of research-based therapy is known as constraint-induced movement therapy (CIMT). The goal of the St. Charles CIMT camp is to help the children regain movement of the affected or weakened arm and hand.

“Recent studies show the value of CIMT for hemipharsis and the outcomes for our campers are remarkable,” explained Jennifer Semel, MD, medical director, Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, St. Charles.“At the end of the three-week session, we can see documented gains in their individual assessment scores and improved function in the use of their weakened arm. Parents are delighted if their children begin to use their weakened arm more frequently at home.”

“Our campers enjoy the one-on-one attention of a personal assistant and they stay motivated because they are having fun doing activities typical of any summer camp,” added Alanna Fassett, MS, OTR/L, the St. Charles occupational therapist who designs the camp program to meet the individual needs and interests of each child. Age-appropriate activities include crafts, cooking, sports, obstacle courses, high action video games such as Wii, as well as Music Therapy experiences including playing musical instruments.

At the beginning of each camp day, the non-affected arm of each child is restrained in a removable cast, which they wear for up to six hours. The campers are compelled to use their affected or weakened arm and hand to participate in the activities. Each child’s assistant engages with the camper during activities, helping the child to stretch his or her muscles and perform exercises and movement patterns. Campers are evaluated individually at the start and conclusion of the three week session and scored utilizing a rehabilitation tool that measures functional outcome. Parents are provided a final report to share with physicians and teachers. The camp runs one session every summer and typically enrolls children aged three to eight.

For more information, please call (631) 474-6797.