Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Farewell (Stacey Braun)

Pick a city. Any city. Any one of the thousands of thriving metropolis' around the globe.

The roadways are blanketed in a chic coat of chrome cement or asphalt as black as night. The polychromatic signage forms an eclectic gallery along each avenue. And amongst all the radiating bulbs and the mod-podge of reverberations, your journey through the city almost always comes to an abrupt halt. A halt at a red light.

Throughout history, the colour red has carried multiple meanings. Red was noted as the hue of extremes. In fact, our prehistoric ancestors saw red as the colour of fire and blood - anger, fear and danger. As the centuries have past, as a species we have evolved from living in caves to driving automobiles and red became recognized as the international colour for stop.

A stop. By definition, a stand still; a termination; a hindrance; a roadblock. A pain-staking colour that signals us to come to a standstill. And though we like to see ourselves as "upgraded models" in comparison to our Neolithic predecessors, our interpretations of red, in this sense, is remarkably similar. For these modern red lights bound within their metallic casings catalyze feelings of frustration and rage within each of us.

However, we don't just encounter these negative red lights on the physical roadway. Instead, as a wise woman once pointed out  in the backseat of a truck, we encounter these unexpected stoppages in our personal lives as well. In fact, being immersed in a foster-care facility in Chiang Mai for children with disabilities has illustrated that exact fact to me each day, for the past 87 days.

Like a pedagogic documentary projecting onto a screen in front of me, my eyes have bore witness and my ears have absorbed through narration each child's different and unique red lights. Each of them has experienced the life roadblock of their disability. The roadblock of all the developmental delays. The roadblock of the health related ailments. The roadblock of the cloud of stigma that surrounds their everyday life in their native land.

Nonetheless, I have not just witnessed these life roadblocks through living beings under the age of ten. Alternatively, two exceptional women have also allowed me to take a peak into their metaphorical closets and absorb their skeletons of roadblocks faced. One has had to experience: the roadblock of moving long-term to a foreign country ripe after academia, and the roadblock of volunteering in a misunderstood field.

The other has had to experience: the roadblock of garnering and juggling funds to help an under serviced  sector, and the roadblock of making decisions invariably linked with the life of vulnerable children.

While cumulatively, both women have grappled with the ever-growing roadblock of holding onto themselves in an environment where it is so easy to lose oneself completely.

In the end, each and every one of us will face red lights; interruptions in our journey forward. But what all of these individuals' life hindrances has shown me is that it is not always about moving forward. Sometimes that extra time spent stopped is a gift - a treasure. Sometimes in that time, you will battle through treacherous rain and hail and your inner strength will grow. Sometimes in that time, you may find an unanticipated route that will change your perspective completely. Or sometimes in that time, you may just have an extra moment to stop, take a breath, and realize all the miles that you've put behind you and all the growth that has already occurred.

Overall - thank you Chiang Mai and Hope Home for all that you have entailed. Thank you, for my trip - my unexpected life stoppage, my red light - has taught me so much.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Sawasdee Ka!

My name is Marie Eberwein and I`m from Germany. I`m 19 years old and I finished high school before I arrived in Thailand.Having  just arrived three weeks ago, but I already feel home. That isn`t difficult because Thai people are the most hearty and friendly people, I`ve ever met. Everybody smiles and you can only do the same.During Cultural Canvas Program, I`m the volunteer at FORRU. FORRU is an environment organization, which reforest the rain forest around Chiang Mai. That means that I spend a lot of time in forest. We collect seeds, tend this in the nursery, we execute germination experiments, monitor formerly planted sites and even more. I really enjoy working in  forest, because it`s kind of paradise.We also offer educational programs in order to prepare this I have to work in the office, too. Our office is in Chiang Mai University. Therefore most of FORRU staff are students and teachers.

Enough about my work I also had time off. And Chiang Mai is a city with  many sights. Wat Phra That Doi Suthep was only one of the impressing temples I visited, covered by incense sticks. I also went to many waterfalls. It`s so amazing to relax there, breathing in the fresh, cool air and chilling in clear water.

Starting from now I`ll keep you informed about my work and my free time each week.

Thanks for reading!


Monday, December 1, 2014

Cerebral Palsy & Blindness (Stacey Braun)

Visual impairments can result from problems with any part of the visual system, including the eyes, eye muscles, optic nerve or areas of the cerebral cortex that process visual information (Book et. al). Because cerebral palsy frequently affects the visual system, children with CP are more likely to have visual problems than are other children. In fact, according to a study conducted by Black, "up to 75% of children with CP are impaired".

One such of these specific impairments is labelled cortical visual impairment. Cortical  visual impairment or CVI results from injury to the brain's visual centres on the cerebral cortex (Book et. al). A child with CVI is thus able to pick up visual information with their eyes but the child's brain cannot process and interpret the information correctly. It is analogous to an imperfect computer chip which cannot fully process the input from the keyboard.

Generally speaking, the most common CVI symptoms presenting in children include an abnormal light responses, inconsistent visual responses to the same stimuli, and decreased responses to visual stimuli when auditory stimulation is present (Giord et. al). But the loss of vision does not only exhibit itself in symptoms directly related to the field.

When a child is blind they have lost one of their basic senses - they are under stimulated. Many of these children resort to other behaviours and forms of self stimulation to compensate for this under stimulation. These behaviours can include head banging, poking, rocking or staring at sources of light (Edelson). It has been reasoned that the head banging may even provide a form of pleasure related to movement titled kinaesthetic drive.

Though these behaviours can be a negative influence in many spheres, developmentally these behaviours are important for blind children as connections are made in the brain where the body is (Coots).

In fact, in the past two months I have witnessed the importance and predominance of these behaviors. In specific, one CVI-blind child at Hope Home fully engages in these actions, though there are two additional CVI children at the home.

However, though these children may seem lost in their world of behaviors that are difficult to comprehend - these children have NOT lost all of their senses: they still have viable feelings remaining. Most importantly, these remaining sensations need to be exercised to promote development. Presently, at Hope Home the developmental pursuits revolve around two core senses: sound and touch.

Stimulating the sense of sound is one experience that is constantly integrated into these children's lives. A variety of genres of music are being incessantly played on the stereo or sung. In addition, at times the children actively engage in creating their own music using instruments such as tambourines, bells, and drums. Therefore, not only to they to revel in the therapeutic auditory sensation but they also get to experience the tactile stimulation associated with banging ones hand against the firm surface of the percussion instrument.

Similar to the sense of sound, the sense of touch is almost effortlessly innervated into each of the three children's our times. In conjunction with the unintentional "touch" lessons, such as putting on clothes and feeding, toys such as a ball-pits and sensory boards provide opportunities to optimize each of these children's development.

Overall, though their condition has robbed their sight from them like a thief in the night - not all is lost. And this can be no more clearly than in this smile below.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

A day at Wildflower Home

Last time I wrote about Chiang Mai, this time, I´ll write about Wildflower Home, the place I work in. You may have read a bit about my tasks there already, but the organisation itself might not be familiar to you.
Wildflower Home is a non-profit organisation that provides shelter for single mothers and pregnant women. It is located a little outside of Chiang Mai in a rural context, surrounded by fields. The foundation itself contains beside the main building and the mother´s homes a day care for the older children and a small farm. The whole complex is designed with passion and love, the columns of the main building for example, are trees and all walls are painted with floral motives.

A lot of small channels and lakes help to water the plants in the farm during the dry season and give the whole area an idyllic outlook. It is truly a place to rest and recover, a place of peace – at least for me. That doesn´t mean that things are always sunny at Wildflower Home. It is like everywhere, you deal with the everyday life issues as well as the sometimes hidden personal problems. And I have suffered enough hours under the inclement sun fastening the soil around one of the ponds or shipping rice husk for the stables to know that the so called “simple life” is in the first place hard work and not simple at all. That it has nothing in common with the romantic idea of being consistent with nature and yourself you can find in many western societies. Still, I can imagine places to work in, which are worse. Every time I take a break from work, sitting in the shadow with my water bottle, with the beautiful view over the farm, the ponds and banana trees, the stables and the vegetable garden, I do feel very privileged. Privileged, because I am able to experiences this all, to see what we have done and what is left to do, because I have the opportunity be a small part of this organisation, joke with the other farm workers and just be thankful for a moment of rest.

Now I am writing again about my experiences here and you still don´t know more about Wildflower home. The whole point of the organisation is to encourage the mothers and give shelter for them and their kids as long as they need it. It is hard to write about “the mothers”, each of their stories is different and not all of them shall be shared in public. Their age varieties over almost twenty years, some have only one child, some a lot, some only stay for a couple of days and some for years. The only thing, that unifies them, is that they and their children are in needs. Wildflower Home tries to find a solution of each and every one of them, encourage them. For me as a volunteer this variety of needs means in the first place to be very flexible and creative. I try everything what needs to be done – you never know, you might be able to solve a problem if you just try. But it means also, to except, that from time to time an expert is needed or just someone, who is fluent in Thai.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

More Than Just A Set of Wheels (Stacey Bruan)

According to the AARP, it is estimated that only 5-15% of people who need wheelchairs actually have them. That means that spanning the globe and its seven continents, as many as 350 million people are lacking the support, accessibility and mobility that these devices provide.

In the year 1967, Joni Eareckson Tada became one such of these persons who required a wheelchair. After misjudging the shallowness of the water in Chesapeake Bay, Joni became a quadriplegic at 17 years of age. Following years of struggle and rehabilitation, she founded an organization called Joni and Friends.

Since the year 1979, Joni and Friends International Disability has been dedicated to assisting people affected by disability and those around them. One of the organizations means of doing this is through their program called "Wheels for the World". As according to the program's mission statement, this project "provides FREE wheelchairs to children and adults affected by disability around the world".

As can be extrapolated by the immensity of that goal, this is not a single link chain of delivery but instead it is a step-wise process. Overall, it can be defined by the following steps: drop-off, transportation, restoration and distribution.

Initially, donated chairs are dropped off at specified locations. These chairs are given for a variety of reasons. Sometimes the donor's condition has changed and they require a different chair or no chair at all. Sometimes the donors outgrow their chairs. But regardless of the reason, the chairs are collected. Following collection, the chairs are transported to shipping ports. These ports serve as hubs where each piece of equipment is routed to a different restoration centre.

Currently, "Wheels for the World" operates restoration shops at correctional facilities across the United States. Inmates are trained to restore the chairs to "like-new" conditions. After each of the individual wheelchairs have been mended, they are shipped internationally to various distribution centres. Interestingly, the Kingdom of Thailand is one of these sites.  Though their movement spans the geographical range of the country, Chiang Mai is one site within the country where dispersal occurs.

In fact, on November 11, 2014 I was on hand at an event that occurred at Payap University's Faculty of Nursing. At this event, there were 3 special guests in the spotlight. Two of these guests were selected cerebral palsy children from Hope Home and the third was a foster child affected by Dushenes Muscular Dystrophy.

In a room filled with occupational therapists, physical therapists and mechanics, each child was fitted with a new wheelchair. Firstly, this process began with a subjective interview with the therapists gathering information about the condition and lifestyle of each child. Questions posed ranged from range of motion to the arrangement of each child's home. Progressively, as increasing amounts of information was acquired, the focus was shifted to a more objective view. During this time, measurements were taken. For example, these tabulations included hip breadth and chest width. Subsequently, it was these numbers that were used to determine specifications such as the size of the seat and seat back. Lastly, once all sizes were gathered, the appropriate chair was then selected and the mechanics then altered each chair to fit the child as best as possible.

Though simply owning a wheelchair is imperative, having a proper fitting wheelchair may be exponentially more important. A proper fitting wheelchair can slow the rate of degenerative conditions, prevent scoliosis, eliminate pressure sores and many other secondary disturbances. However, a wheelchair is important for more than just its role as a sponge for medical jargon.

The query of "what does a wheelchair mean to a person" is impossible to intricately answer. Each individual is defined by a unique set of circumstances and variables that would cause infinite variation in their responses. Nevertheless, from an observational perspective I can generally state that a wheelchair means so incredibly much.

A wheelchair can mean that a child previously unable to feed without being physically held, now has increased independence and self-actualization by feeding in the chair. A wheelchair can mean that a child heavily impaired by hypo sensitivity now has an environment that accommodates learning. A wheelchair can mean that a previously confined child now has the tool necessary to experience adventure and personal discovery. Overall, a wheelchair is more than just a set of wheels. A wheelchair provides hope for a fulfilling future.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Two Million (Stacey Braun)

Two million. A number that contains a whooping 6 zeros. A number that contains 7 digits. Two million. A number that can be broken down into 2 x one million or 4 x 500,000. But no matter how you approach it, the number commands attention . For this reason, the fact that Thailand has over two million people living with disabilities makes this number an important one (NSO).

Though individuals with disabilities have faced hardships world wide, their challenges have been particularly pronounced in Thailand. So why is this so?    More than 90% of Thais are Buddhist. Accordingly, in the teachings of Buddhism disability is an outcome of a vice that a person had in his/her previous life (Driedger). Because of this, Thai children with disabilities have been viewed by a large number to be useless and worthless (Hill). In fact, the stigma was so predominant that many Thai children with disabilities were kept at home and even denied basic education. Even "with the compulsory Education Act of 1935, the Ministry of Education allowed a child to stay at home because of his/her disability (Sukbupant, Shiraishi & Kuroda).

Furthermore, this trend continued for another half-century following the 1935 act. Before 1998, only 7.3% of children with disabilities in Thailand of school age were receiving an education ("Country Profile on Disability: Kingdom of Thailand", 2002). After this shocking statistic was published, the Ministry of Education designated the year 1999 as the "year of education for disabled persons". Several plans to enlarge educational opportunities for persons with disabilities were drawn up. Largely, this education was to occur through the promotion of inclusive  learning in regular schools. By definition, inclusive learning is an approach to education where students with disabilities spend the majority or all of their time with non-disabled students (Allen & Schwartz). However, contrary to the plans - this idea has not held in practice over a decade later.

Predominantly, Thai children with disabilities receive their educational services through special education schools located throughout the kingdom (Traiwicha). It is at one of these schools, Special Education Centre Region 8, that Hope Home's children attend school. Each of the children spend varying amounts of time at the school catered toward their individual needs. For example, one child attends every day all day. Whereas, some attend once a week.

So what doss their learning consist of at Special Education Centre Region 8? The intellectual lessons include activities such as counting and colouring. Whereas, the physical components range from threading (for hand-eye coordination) to physical and occupational therapy. Chiefly, the later of these lessons are what I have specifically witnessed.

From passive stretching and ring stacking to light therapy - a variety of therapeutic avenues were travelled on Tuesday. Overall, I would say that the children seemed to enjoy this change in sensory environment. However, such a stimulating day lead to some overload and exhaustion.

Though I do value that these children are getting the best education available to them and their providers, I cannot help but wonder where 1999's plans got left. Still to the date, less than 40% of Thai children with disabilities actually attend inclusive school programs (Traiwicha). Yet, time and time again studies have illustrated the benefits of inclusive education.

As illustrated by a study comparing integrated and segregated students with disabilities, "disabled children in the integrated sites progressed in social skill development whereas segregated children regressed" (Sale & Carey). In fact, additional studies have demonstrated "increased self esteem, increased motivation, and increased completion of learning goals" in students with disabilities in inclusive education settings.

However, the reason I believe that inclusive education should be the end-goal for Thailand is not just for its benefits for disabled children. Research has shown  that non-disabled students in inclusive school settings show remarkably improved perception and increased positive attitudes towards people with disabilities (Bennett et al). As Gandhi so clearly highlighted, "if we are to reach real peace in this world, we shall have to begin with children". Therefore, if the end goal is to change the perspective towards disability in Thailand - inclusive education may serve as a catalyst for this movement.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Movement Physical Therapy (Stacey Braun)

 The earliest documented origins of actual physical therapy as a professional trade date back to a man by the name of Per Henrik Ling (Chartered Society of Physical Therapy). Through the years, this practice has morphed and changed until its current form in the 21st century. It is this form that is instructed at Chiang Mai University's Faculty of Associated Medical Science Physical Therapy Department to their students. And it is these students that implement their new knowledge on Hope Home's children with cerebral palsy weekly.

As illustrated by children with cerebral palsy, neurological disorders often cause increased muscle tone - or too much tightness. In the muscles of the arms and legs, spasticity results from increased muscle tone, limiting movement and joint mobility (Verschuren et al.).Therefore, the therapeutic goal of physical therapy for children with cerebral palsy is largely focused around "improving ones ability to walk or perform other functional activities" (Verschuren et al.).

Chiefly, passive stretching is the major component of the children's program at CMU. By definition, passive stretching is when "the stretch is performed by another person and the child does not actively participate"
 (Wiart et al.). Notably, this type of stretching is integral to the physical therapy for Hope Home's children. This is because the children who have cerebral palsy at the home, have severe cerebral palsy. The number of controlled muscle movements they are able to perform is extremely limited. Ergo, applied external force is required to complete any stretch.

Foremost, after arriving for our weekly session the physical therapy students started with each child's upper extremities. Initially, a gentle soft tissue massage was completed by each therapist. This was performed to loosen up the desired muscle group and to promote a convivial connection with the child.

Subsequently, each therapist then moved to performing palm extension exercises. These exercises are salient for children with cerebral palsy. For these children, the clenched fists come from the damaged brain sending improper impulses to muscles causing "excess flexion" (Soon et al.). Accordingly, the physical stretching of the palm helps relieve this tension.

Following several minutes of these types of exercises, the students shifted to bicep flexion and shoulder rotation. Overall, in our group this is commonly met with a rousing chorus of grunts, groans and tears. Due to the children's inability to communicate verbally, the reason for the crying cannot be completely understood. The child could be feeling pain resulting from their stuff muscles being elongated. Or if the child has experienced damage to their cerebral cortex, their ability to perceive  their world could be hampered (Gerztiman et al) . Therefore, the child could be perceiving a fearful situation.

Following the choir of cries, the physical therapy students focus shifted to the lower limbs. Largely, a similar routine was performed as on the upper extremities. However, the physical therapy students did preform a new type of exercise to each child's legs that was not performed on the child's arms.

Accordingly, prolonged stretching is when "positioning is used to achieve a longer duration stretch of a muscle group (Wiart et al.). Often this type of therapy is completed with the assistance of splints or braces. In respect to our physical therapy session, 3/4 leg braces allowed the physical therapy students to stretch the major lower extremity muscle groups while simultaneously assisting the child with sitting or standing. Overall, there is something exceptional about seeing a child stand who cannot do it individually. It is almost as if you can see the pride fill their eyes and confidence seep out of their pores. I do not believe there is a better education for the students than that image right there.

Not only are these children living models for the students to practice their craft on, but they are also tangible models of life lessons. Walking should not be taken for granted. Siting should not be taken for granted. Life un-assisted should not be taken for granted. Though confined by their disability - they are not defined by their disability. And that in itself may be a lesson for more than just this small student  sector of Thailand.

Monday, October 27, 2014

20 days/485 hours/29,100 seconds

There is a reason why the first thing we often ask someone after we learn their name is where they come from. Where's home? It is because the notion of "home" is imperative to human life.

Throughout time, writers and scholars alike have all attempted to define this essential concept. In the second poem of the Four Quartets, T.S Eliot writes that "home is where one starts from". Personally, I favour the definition scribed in the book "Honey for a Child's Heart". In this work, Gladys Hunt raised the question "what is home?" Her response to this was "[home] is a safe place, a place where one experiences secure relationships and affirmation. It's a place where people share and understand each other".

So how does Hope Home fit into that concept? Hope Home is a safe place. The children that reside there are secure, nurtured and more than anything - loved. It is a home in the truest sense of the word, just like your own personal home.

With that in mind, I would like you to envision something. Imagine you are a boy. Imagine you are ten years of age. Imagine waking up in the morning, lazily extending your limbs to and fro to shake out the drowsiness. Then imagine being gently told that in approximately two weeks you would be moving to a strange city ten hours away. Then imagine being gently told that you would be making this journey all by yourself with only your few belongings in tow. Now you can stamp this described visualization as dramatic, absurd or even unbelievable - but your stamp would be false. For it is believable, I can attest to that.

Unfortunately, this agonizing story played out at Hope Hope in the past couple of weeks to an amazing boy. A boy who has experienced such hardship in his body that has been ravaged by severe cerebral palsy. A boy that despite his illness mounted against him showed extreme determination and tenacity in countless scenarios. A boy that still managed to physically move himself around and hold himself tall - all with limited assistance. A boy who transformed himself into a beacon of light and a fountain of positive energy. A boy that though physically confined in a wheelchair the majority of the time, did not allow his spirit to be contained.

Well amazing boy, if words could drift off this page and travel on a magical paper airplane through the sky - I would send the following to you. I wish that your inner strength only grows in the face of the adversity you are facing. I wish that your happiness does not dim following this storm of turmoil. I wish that your smile breaks through the oppressive mask that has been molded by your arduous departure. I wish that you find a small amount of comfort in knowing you are thought about every single day. Lastly, I wish that in this short time that has passed you have already impacted someone in your new home. For in just 20 days/485 hours/29,100 minutes - you impacted me so tremendously.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Wildflower Home Blog 7

Although I wrote a lot about my weekends in the last blogs, eighty percent
of my life in Chiang Mai is determined by my work at Wildflower Home. A
few things have changed at Wildflower Home and with it my tasks have
changed as well. I work in the farm until lunch break. This involves
cleaning pig stables, fastening bank slopes and setting up a vegetable
garden. I like the work there. It is rhythmic and it is dynamic. Your head
is absolutely empty. There is just the sound of your rake hitting the
ground and the smacking sound of the soil giving in. This is accompanied
by the choir of roosters crowing all around you. No deadlines are pressed
but instead you´re just giving your best. You work to your tempo, taking
breaks when ever need them. If it´s not ready, you´ll finish it tomorrow.
I have learned a lot about my physical limits, but I was also surprised by
some of my skills. Skills which I never would have assumed I had. I have
learned that hard work brings people together. The breaks provide a great
opportunity to get to know the members of Wildflower Home better. It gives
you time to hear their stories and to understand why they are at WFH.
Overall, working in the farm is definitely the highlight of my day.

In addition to my work on the farm, I´m teaching English in the afternoon.
This is one activity which is really fun. Beside that, I am doing crafts
and handmade cards. I find that these can be dreary. But the kids provide
a light to the tedium with their running around and playing with our art
supplies. They always seem to be giggling and screaming. Since some
mothers with older kids have left, there are only three kids around two
year’s age. Therefore, there is no nursery currently functioning. Whoever
is around simply watches the cluster of children. Though their presence
makes the card production slightly slower, when a happy two year old jumps
on your lap the interaction brings the biggest smile to your face.

Hydrohappy (Stacey Braun)

The use of water as a form of therapy is not a modern concept by any means. The ancient Egyptian, Greek, and Roman civilizations all have forms of hydrotherapy recorded. In fact, Hippocrates - the father of modern medicine - prescribed bathing in spring water for sickness (Pappas et al). Conversely, the use of water as a form of therapy for children with cerebral palsy (or other disabilities) may be a newer concept.

It is well documented that children with cerebral palsy may be only capable of a limited number of movements. However, with the use if water, exercise becomes more feasible for these children. The buoyancy of water: reduces the effects of gravity, poor balance, and poor postural support (Kelly and Darrah). In fact, water can act as a brace and physically provide postural support. Though it may be important, support is not the only benefit of hydrotherapy.

Hydrotherapy has numerous benefits for children with cerebral palsy. Being in water  fosters the movement of limbs and it encourages stiff muscles to relax. This relaxing is aided by the warm temperate of the pool water. In addition, hydrotherapy can create a fantastic opportunity for sensory feedback (Thorpe and Reilly). Children can hear the sounds of splashing water and feel the warm water lap against their body. Furthermore, it has been stated that "perceptual and visual motor skills [also] improve because water slows down movement and gives children time to react" (Thorpe and Reilly).

Overall, it is without question that I noted each of the above benefits with the children's hydrotherapy session this week.

On Monday, after an approximately 30 minute long drive,  some of the Hope Home children and staff arrived via songthaew at Chiang Mai University's Faculty of Associated Medical Sciences. It is within this faculty that the Physical Therapy department is housed.

Following a swift change of attire, as a group we leisurely eased into the hydrotherapy pool. Initially, I found the water noticeably warmer than what I was used to. This temperature is due to the fact that hydrotherapy pools are generally between 33 and 34 degrees Celsius. This warm water is utilized because it  has a relaxing effect and can help decrease muscle tone.

Over the course of the next hour, a variety of activities were performed with the assistance of the physical therapy students. Initially, we began with getting comfortable in the water - floating and splashing around. Though some children acclimated immediately, others were very hesitant and required some coaching.

Afterwards, we formed a circle with each child/caregiver pairing. From this arrangement we sang songs while encouraging the children to move their limbs in the water. At this point in the program you could see each child's personality shine through. The loud and rowdy children needed to thrash about the wildest. The prim and proper princesses showed their enjoyment with grins and giggles.

Subsequently, after a period of time had passed we played a "fetch" type game. The physical therapy student leader dumped a bin of balls - containing a myriad of sizes and colours - into the water. They then instructed the children to collect the balls and place them back in the bin. Here I truly began to see the benefits of this treatment. Children who were do confined on land exhibited such independence and tenacity. Confidence that was initially in the shadows, rose to take centre stage. This moment illustrated in vivid colour the purpose of this therapy.

Finally, to conclude the session we did a series of races. All child/caregiver pairings lined up at one wall and then at the leaders command, moved to the parallel wall. We jumped. We spun. We thrashed about. We laughed. We grew. Whether it was physical, mental or emotional - we all grew.

Thorpe DE, Reilly M. The effect of an aquatic resistive exercise program on lower extremity strength, energy expenditure, functional mobility, balance and self- perception in an adult with cerebral palsy; a retrospective case report. J Aquatic Phys Ther. 2000; 8: 18- 24.

Kelly M, Darrah J. Aquatic exercise for children with cerebral palsy. Dev Med and Child Neurol. 2005; 47: 838- 842.

Geralis E. Children with cerebral palsy: A Parent’s Guide. 2nd ed. Woodbine House, Inc. Bethesda, USA. 1998.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Lost and Found

I´ve been in Chiang Mai over 2 months without seeing any temples in the city and I thought it was time to change that. Together with my Canadian roommate – you´ve probably red her blog already – I stated to make a plan. We are both no big fans of motorbikes, to we chose man power, bicycles.
The city is – thank god- not too hilly, our bikes didn´t have any gears.The first day was a perfect one, we saw Wat Phanoha, Wat Chedi Luang, Wat Phra Singh, Wat Lam Chang and Wat Chiang Man (last three highly recommended) in the older city. Additionally, we also saw a terracotta garden and I had the best smoothie so far.

Encouraged by this first day, we reached for more. Wat Wela Wanaram, Wat Ku Tao and Wat Jet Yet were the plan. Wat Wela Wanaram has an interesting museum with everything. This included an elephants head over photos of old Chiang Mai to radios from the early 20th century. The temple itself isn´t
one of the important ones, but is with its five pediments from architectural beauty.

Following the river from Wat Wela Wanaram we headed to the north. The understanding that cycling on the big roads needs more practices made us bend off into smaller roads. Chiang Mai has a totally different face in this locale than in the Sois of the Older City. The feel is somehow almost rural, with smaller houses and some unfilled spaces. Two blond girls on bicycles are nothing ordinary here, as many reactions showed us. However, navigating without a proper map wasn´t the best idea. Our map had only road names for the big streets and the small lanes weren´t on the map at all. It was bound to happen – we were pretty lost. Later at home I figured out that we went in circles around our destination. 

We ended up in a small street, which had the name of the temple thinking it couldn´t be far and used the internet at the little coffee shop to figure out the way. I literally burst out laughing when the lovely shop owner showed the roof of the temple. We could have seen it the whole time, if we only had looked up. On the other hand, I got a lot of impressions from this ride I really don´t want to miss and which I can barely formulate. Maybe it´s not about finding the direct way, maybe it´s about getting lost and find something you didn´t expect. Something that surprises you and doesn't let you go. Even the hidden roads lead to the destination.

 The temple itself, Wat Ku Tao is definitely worth a visit. If not for simply an oasis in the city.We made our way from Wat Ku Tao with only a small indirection to Wat Jet Yot on the other side of the Super Highway. This temple cannot be more different from the Burmese influenced Wat Ku Tao than Wat Jet Yot. But
it´s an oasis, a place of peace and ease as well. This place makes you forget that Chiang Mai´s most important traffic artery is only a few hundred meters away. With its huge old trees and a lot of old chedis, the
place is somehow fey and impressed me deeply. Definitely my favorite temple so far.