Using both hands
Jadyn Locklear’s bright pink cast was removed from her right arm so she could show her grandmother that she could tie a shoe.
Her grandmother, Jill Harris, put on her glasses and readied her camera phone.
“Show Grandmamma,” Harris encouraged her.
Jadyn, nine years old, needed a few minutes and a little help from therapy students to complete the task, but she did it. With both hands.
Soft applause and “yays” followed.
“Good job, girl,” Harris said.
June 20 was the second-to-last day of Helping Kids with Hemiplegia, a 10-day therapeutic summer camp for 3-to-10 year old children, held at Mary Scroggs Elementary School.
Hemiplegia, often induced by a stroke, is motor impairment on one side of the body. During the camp, children wear casts on their unimpaired arms for six hours a day, as part of constraint-inducement movement therapy (CIMT), said camp founder Holly Holland.
“They wear the cast on their strong arm so they’re encouraged to use their weaker side,” Holland said.
Holland, a pediatric occupational therapist at N.C. Children’s Hospital, began the annual camp eight years ago as a fun alternative to $20,000 therapy programs.
“I was seeing a lot of kids on my caseload that had strokes, and I wanted to provide them with an opportunity to receive some of this therapy in a much more cost-effective way,” Holland said.
It doesn’t cost money to attend the camp, which hosted 37 children this year, but donations are encouraged, Holland said. North Carolina residents are given priority, but campers from outside the state can attend.
In the mornings, before the children put on their casts, they practice dressing themselves with both hands, Holland said. Each camper is assisted by one or two occupational or physical therapy student volunteers, from both the undergraduate and graduate level. Professional therapists also work with groups of campers.
June 20 was also “Pirate Day” — as made clear by the skull-and-crossbones temporary tattoo on Jadyn’s left arm. Earlier that day, campers dressed in pirate costumes and casts had used their weaker arms to stab at “enemy” balloons that were taped to a hallway floor. The camp used nine of the school’s classrooms for different motor skill-improvement activities.
In the “Sensory Room,” Jadyn showed her grandmother how she could grab a sponge out of a tub of liquid and wipe a table. Harris joked that she had someone to help her this summer.
Harris said that she’s seen a difference in the way Jadyn holds her arm.
“Normally she holds it close to her, but she’s been holding it out and flexing it more,” she said.
Mary Bennett Poehlman, whose family lives in Durham, said the camp is a good way for her nine-year-old daughter, Nelle, to get involved in therapy again after the busy school year ends. But she said it’s more than just therapy for the campers.
“There’s a social aspect for these kids coming in, working with other kids that are just like them, because that doesn’t happen on regular school-day basis,” Poehlman said.
Nelle suffered a stroke in utero, and has attended the camp every year since it started. Next year will be her last.
Poehlman said Nelle’s favorite part of camp is Bird Day, when a woman from Greensboro brings her birds to visit. Other theme days include Superhero Day, Olympic Day and Dog Day, when therapy dogs come in.
Nelle said that one of her favorite activities was the fine motor activity that involved brushing and putting clips in mannequins’ hair. She said she’s coming back to camp next summer, which will be her last year.
Jadyn said painting was her favorite part. She rattled off a list of all the friends she’d made at camp.
Harris said the skills Jadyn learned at camp will have to be reinforced when she goes home to Pembroke. Harris said she only stopped dressing Jadyn six months ago, when Jadyn’s mother informed her that she could dress herself.
“It’s so easy for grandmamma to do it for her,” Harris said. “But I’ve got to learn to insist that she does it.”