Last year BJ started at the Cerebral Palsy Alliance gym. I honestly didn’t think it would be a success but I’m always keen to give BJ the opportunity to try new things. I figured if it was a success, fantastic. If not, it would be no great loss. At least we would have tried. At 25 years of age, I’m keen for BJ’s life to continue to be interesting and challenging. I don’t want him to get stuck in a rut and do the same things forever. So, we booked in for an assessment with an exercise physiologist and gave it a go. We thought we’d share our experience trying an accessible gym program with BJ in the hope it may help others consider giving it a go.
CEREBRAL PALSY ALLIANCE GYM – ACCESSIBLE GYM PROGRAM
Like most of us, BJ loves doing fun things. As an adult he’s not as keen on sticking at things if they are too hard. I’m guessing that’s why so many people in general give up, or don’t use their gym memberships to their full advantage. Going to the Cerebral Palsy Alliance gym has certainly taken persistence and encouragement to keep BJ working towards his goals but he’s gained so much strength, improved his stamina and an added bonus has been gaining better depth perception.
When I phoned the Cerebral Palsy Alliance I was pretty upfront that BJ would need a super experienced person who could be firm but kind and work with someone who could be inclined to avoidance techniques. BJ was paired with lovely Eliza who was all those things and more. He was also lucky to be going weekly with a support worker who also possesses the same skills when working with BJ.
As I mentioned in my year in review blog, BJ started off walking on the treadmill and could barely last 5 minutes. At his final session last year he was managing 15 minutes on the treadmill. And had gained an extra skill, hitting the stop button when he was over it.
BJ is a huge fan of any ball sports and can bend it like Beckham with a soccer ball. That’s a slight exaggeration from a proud Mum but you get the idea, his skills are pretty good. Since going to the gym he’s been working on using two hands to throw and he’s now able to lift the ball as high as his nose and give it a good throw. That’s a meaningful skill for BJ and something he can now enjoy doing at home and with others.
Since pausing his attendance at his day program, BJ’s had one to one support workers and he’s really missed the sense of community of going to the same place each day. The Cerebral Palsy Alliance gym has given him that. From the volunteers who do Covid temperature checks at the door, to the reception staff, other clients and of course the exercise physiologists, he’s found somewhere to feel known. For someone as social as BJ, that’s an integral part of his day-to-day happiness and well-being.
Our experience has been at the Cerebral Palsy Alliance gym but I’m sure many others are finding similar benefits from attending their local gym. We find the staff at the CP Gym really understand working with someone who is non-verbal and living with cerebral palsy. Communication symbols are around the gym area for those who’d like to use them. The building has several stand-alone unisex accessible bathrooms, a Changing Places bathroom with adult change table and plenty of accessible parking right at the door.
Covid safety seems top-of-mind with temperature checks, staff wearing masks when needed and thorough wiping down of the equipment after each client.
We applied in our NDIS review for funding for health and well-being to cover BJ attending weekly gym sessions. We asked the exercise physiologist to list BJ’s progress and goals and how she felt the program would assist him in meeting these. We received a good funding package to cover a year’s worth of gym sessions.
I’m sure BJ will be really happy to get back to the gym next week and see everyone again.
We are clients of the CPA and not writing this post for any other reason than to try to motivate others.
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