Today I had the opportunity to visit a therapy centre in Sydney. Over the years I’ve heard a lot about the NAPA Centre in Los Angeles and know that some of our families have travelled there to take advantage of the intensive therapy programs they offer. Until recently, I wasn’t aware that NAPA was in Australia and right here in Sydney where we live. One of our Facebook families invited me to take a peak and today I returned to learn more. What I found was a vibrant, supportive and hard working environment where kids are being given the opportunity to reach their potential despite the challenges of their disabilities.
Like so many great things in life, NAPA came about because of a person who had a vision and need.
The Neurological And Physical Abilitation Center (NAPA), was founded in 2008 by Lynette LaScala in Los Angeles, California. Lynette envisioned an organisation that would provide individuals with disabilities cutting-edge treatments and therapies.
As a mother of a child who experienced a near drowning accident, Lynette struggled to find quality therapies for her son. She knew that for her son Cody to make any sort of recovery, his rehabilitation needed to be intensive. Unfortunately, her experience was disconnected therapies with hours spent driving across town for appointments. To find the best help, she was forced to travel around the US, and eventually around the world, seeking out the best treatment options available. This lead to the creation of NAPA Center, bringing the best therapies available under one roof in Los Angeles, CA.
Many families were travelling from Australia to Los Angeles to take advantage of the therapies so it was logical to bring NAPA here. Families now travel from all over Australia, New Zealand and Asia to access NAPA in Australia.
We would have embraced NAPA when BJ was younger had it been available in Australia. I absolutely loved what I saw today and certainly urge our families that read this blog to check it out.
I saw kids working hard today but aside from a few grumbles, I was amazed at how driven they were to keep going. Mind you, therapy is done within play so although it’s tough going, there is a fun element as an incentive.
The NAPA Centre offers 3 week intensive programs and weekly therapy year round. Programs are tailored to individual needs. The therapies that are available and used at NAPA include –
Intensive Model of Therapy (IMOT)
Cuevas Medek Exercise (CME)
I’ve never heard of some of these therapies and was interested to learn more about them today. After one day I won’t profess to be an expert so if you’d like to know more and how they help, go to the NAPA website here.
NAPA Centre offers specialised and expert services in assessment and treatment for children and young adults with a variety of complex disorders including cerebral palsy, Autism Spectrum Disorders, Down Syndrome, brain injuries, developmental delays, genetic conditions, oral motor disorders, feeding and swallowing difficulties and more.
The message I got from NAPA is that it’s a can-do environment where therapists look at working on goals for each child with a positive attitude.
Intensive treatment is not cheap but it’s worth checking if your private health fund will cover it. I’d encourage people to look into incorporating NAPA in any NDIS plans if it is suitable for your child. And if all else fails, try thinking outside the box. I love Beau’s Mum’s enthusiasm for the program. When I asked her if she didn’t mind me asking how she funded the intensive treatment several times a year, she told me the family had set up a Go Fund Me page which covered the cost. In turn, she has set up a Facebook page so people can see Beau’s progress and watch how their dollars are making a difference. Now Beau has his own cheer squad of people who may not know him personally but have a vested interest in his progress. It sounds like he’s become quite the celebrity around their home town too. We all need a cheer squad when we are working so hard.
Families are travelling across Australia to take part in the therapy which for many involves accommodation, travel costs and of course organising siblings. It takes a deep commitment on everyone’s part but judging by the stories I heard today, families find the benefits are worth it.
I chatted to some of the families about why they travel to Sydney to do NAPA and the answer seemed to be the same from each of them. The results, and particularly the speed of the results they had experienced was the main reason. One family mentioned that their son was only taking a couple of tentative steps prior to arriving at NAPA for his first visit of three weeks. By the end, he was taking 70 steps. Another Mum said her son’s hemiplegia was preventing him from walking without “face planting” but after his first time at NAPA he took 22 steps on his own.
I know only too well that not every child attending therapy will have such dramatic results so I asked Louise to give me some examples of improvements or goals for a child with less chance of reaching a milestone like walking. Louise mentioned a little girl who hadn’t been able to tolerate being in her car seat for more than 10 minutes at a time and after NAPA was able to stay happily in her car seat. Louise also mentioned general health and well being of some of the children. Some had avoided hip surgery, had generally been healthy and not developed scoliosis despite that being a risk.
What struck me about the NAPA Centre is how comfortable the parents are in the therapy environment. Whether they were interacting with the therapists or having a break and chatting to another parent, there was a sense of camaraderie. Meeting other families, having people to share victories with and share frustrations with is so important. We certainly found this through our years of doing Conductive Education.
From our many years in therapy I know that the small gains can be the big ones over time. For example, it has always been extremely positive that BJ can do a standing transfer. Any improvements, no matter how small, that help with independence and good health, are worthwhile and shouldn’t be underestimated. We’ve learnt that therapy doesn’t provide miracles, there’s lots of hard work and it needs plenty of consistency for success.
If NAPA start taking adults in the future, I’d be trying to secure BJ a spot. When he was younger he went through the motions of therapy (often fighting it) but he now values independence and wants to be involved in everything. We’re keen to ensure that he maintains his mobility, good health and any gains that help him would be a bonus.
For those of you with kids the right age, check NAPA out. And no, I’m not on commission, I am just really, really impressed.
Read more about NAPA Australia here.
For our overseas friends, don’t forget there is NAPA, Los Angeles which you can read about here.
A big thanks to Alex and Carter for introducing us to NAPA in Sydney and to Louise who welcomed me into the centre and answered the millions of questions I threw at her. Also, thanks to the families who let me take photos of their gorgeous kids and ask them a question or two. And to finish off this Oscar’s style speech, thanks to the therapists who let me watch them in action. As always, I’m in awe of your energy and passion for your work.