ACPOC Explores What’s New in Pediatric Rehab

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Visualize this: over 200 healthcare professionals representing a variety of rehabilitation-related disciplines--orthopedic surgeons, physiatrists, physical and occupational therapists, orthotists, and prosthetists--coming together to discuss both formally and informally the latest developments in team rehab. Most of these professionals know one another, some for many years, which leads them into lively presentations, debates, conversations, and friendly banter.

Their focus: caring for children with musculoskeletal and neurodevelopmental conditions.

This was the setting for the 2003 Annual Meeting of the Association of Children's Prosthetic-Orthotic Clinics May 14-17, St. Pete Beach, Florida. Attending were a total of 207 scientific attendees, ten accompanying persons, and 53 exhibit representatives (many of whom attended sessions) from 34 companies. One orthotist/prosthetist traveled all the way from Nepal. Gyanendra Shrestha, managing director of Orthopedica, an orthopedic association in Nepal, attended with his daughter, Shritu Shrestha, and his niece, Rashmi Shrestha, a nurse who lives in San Francisco, California. Hosts were Kenneth J. Guidera, MD, Janet G. Marshall, CPO, and Sandra B. Smith, PT, all of Shriners Hospital, Tampa, Florida.

During the business meeting, the association voted to hold its 2005 annual meeting in conjunction with the American Academy of Orthotists and Prosthetists (AAOP) in Orlando, Florida, if financially feasible. Next year's meeting is scheduled for March 24-27 in Banff, Alberta, Canada.

Program Highlights

A loving, supportive, athletic family, plus her own indomitable spirit, has made Sandra "Sandy" Dukat a champion. Born with a limb difference leading to amputation of her right foot, Sandy went on to become a member of the US Disabled Swimming Team, participating in the World Championships in New Zealand in 1998, and the US Disabled Ski Team competing in the 2002 Paralympics in Salt Lake City, Utah. She took home two bronze medals from the Paralympics, but especially remembers her family, friends, and coworkers cheering her on.

Although Sandy didn't know any other disabled youngsters until she was 14, her family and community gave her a strong sense of belonging and equality. Not until she went to college did she experience teasing and being made to feel different and "disabled." "It made me realize that society often defines what is disability,'" she said. Sandy now works to help disabled youngsters achieve their potential and to educate the public about disability. After her inspiring speech and video, the audience rose to give her a standing ovation.

Here are just a few highlights of the many informative sessions:

What can parents do to ensure care for their disabled child after their death? This has become a pressing issue for many families, since more children with severe disabilities are living into adulthood. Tracy-Ann Adams, director of family services for "Disabled and Alone" Life Services for the Handicapped Inc., a nonprofit organization in New York City, gave a warm and practical presentation on how families can provide financially and in personal caregiving for disabled loved ones. "Our goal is to help families see the need for a plan--and to make the plan," she said.

Mary Novotny, RN, founder of the Amputee Coalition of America (ACA), and have teamed up to establish a new nonprofit organization, the Digital Resource Foundation. Novotny and Paul Prusakowski, CPO, of discussed the new foundation's goals and initial projects, including free access to a virtual library of orthotic- and prosthetic-related material for professionals, consumers, students, researchers, and others.

Hugh Watts, MD, showed a video of twin girls with spinal fusion muscular atrophy riding ingenious home-made carts enabling them to go freely over practically every terrain. The video showed the girls, who live in Alaska, riding among various farm animals, including horses, and enjoying a variety of activities.

Another video demonstrated a wheelchair with a seat that a three-year-old quadrimelic youngster lowers, raises, and controls by himself, enabling him to independently climb in and out of the device. It was highly enjoyable watching this lively child have fun exploring his environment.