A different form of learning – Conductive Education: Part II

In February, in Part I of a two-part series,  Saugeen Times took a look at a different kind of learning – learning when challenged with a disability such as Cerebral Palsy.  To fully understand, we recommend reading Part I first.

Now, in Part II, we look at a typical day for Eugenie taking part in Conductive Education (CE), working with STRIVE Executive Director and Conductor, Tunde Oroveczne.

Eugenie is a 17-year-old young woman in Port Elgin (Saugeen Shores) who has been integrated into the public school system, which according to her mother, Angela Richard, has done little to help her achieve life skills.  “You can’t tell me that sitting there in a classroom hour after hour in a wheelchair does anything for my daughter,” says Richard.  “The fully integrated school system is not for everyone, nor should it be.  There are those who need special learning activities and who gain nothing from sitting in a classroom setting.”

That’s why Richard continues to take matters into her own hands.  Eugenie has gone to a ‘special needs’ camp each summer where the STRIVE Learning Centre, a registered charity for those with Cerebral Palsy at the YMCA camp at Geneva Park in Orillia, works physically, emotionally and mentally with people of all ages who have a disability such as Eugenie’s.

In addition to Cerebral Palsy, Eugenie also has epilepsy and is, what is known as, developmentally or cognitively delayed but, back to Oroveczne’s home stay.

It was so successful in February that Eugenie was able to attend church and, like any teenager, was happy to have her hair done, make-up applied and to be beautifully dressed.  So successful was the extended visit for Eugenie, that Oroveczne  is returning again on a regular basis to provide her with a daily physical and mental work-out … and work-out it is.

Each day is a repetition of the day before, with specialized exercises that include learning to walk, learning to go down and up stairs, upper-body strengthening exercises and the list goes on.  At the end of each day, Eugenie is tired but it’s a “healthy’ tired that only activity can provide.

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While the home-stays provide Eugenie with the strength building activities that are needed, they also provide respite time for the caregiver who, in Eugenie’s case, is mom Angela.

According to the Ontario Federation for Cerebral Palsy (OFCP), there are significant impacts on the Ontario health system.  The latest statistics show that more than 34,000 Ontarians live with Cerebral Palsy at various levels of challenge.  Also, according to the OFCP website, any or all funding ceases when the person turns 18 and they or their families have to rely on ODSP (Ontario Disability Support Program).

Unfortunately, often the ODSP does not transition immediately and families are left, in some cases, financially bereft for six months to two years.  “Immediately when a child turns 18, all or any benefits cease,” says Richard.  “For some families, it can be devastating to suddenly have no financial supports.  Just because their child has reached that ‘magic age’ of 18 plus a day, the need doesn’t suddenly end.  There are programs for support devices such as wheelchairs and specially equipped vans but once a child is 18,you can’t apply for them.  There are also so many agencies involved to try and sort through that it can be daunting and people often just give up.”