Note this is from a personal perspective
As I have documented before in previous posts hemiplegia is a part of my autism profile which in my case is associated with a traumatic birth, prematurity and brain injury due to a placental abruption.
This affects the right side of my body, which caused me to have problems with the following.
- Left-right orientation
- Turning on one side (regardless of where the noise, auditory or tactile stimulus is coming from)
- Using the dominant side of body for tasks that involve both sides of the body
- Having an unusual/abnormal gait which involves the right leg stiffening with a lack of bending in the knee and the leg itself rotating away from the other leg
What are the effects of hemiplegia?
It is difficult to generalise: hemiplegia affects each child differently. The most obvious result is a varying degree of weakness, stiffness (spasticity) and lack of control in the affected side of the body, rather like the effects of a stroke. In one child this may be very obvious (he or she may have little use of one hand, may limp or have poor balance); in another child it will be so slight that it only shows when attempting specific physical activities.
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Gait refers to the controlled manner of walking or moving on foot. The functioning of the nervous system and the musculoskeletal system determines the gait pattern. In children who have hemiplegia, this delicate system is out of balance and often results in different types of gait.
Gait in the Child with Hemiplegia
A child with hemiplegia may have a tendency to walk with the toes on the affected foot striking the ground first, instead of the usual heel strike. This “toe drop” often results in our kids taking quite a few falls and tumbles. In order to clear the toe while walking, the child may develop a variety of ways to compensate, which then result in problems with his hip and or knee. Treatments may include gait analysis, physical therapy, orthotics, serial casting, botulinum toxin and surgery. The goal of treatment is not to “cure” the condition, but to enable the child to achieve her maximum potential.
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What has helped me?
I still have residual hemiplegia in terms of its impact on my life and it tends to start when I walk for long periods with associated movements etc. What has empowered me over the years is that same thing that would help someone who has acquired brain injury, a stroke etc which is called “brain gym”.
As an Infant & Teenager
- Walking in long fields, day-trips and other activities (with the family and school trips)
- Swimming in the local pools and streams (when I was younger)
- Cycling from an early age (first with stabilisers and moved on to independent cycling)
As an Adult
- I continue to to walk from place to place promoting movement to the side which is impacted
- I continue to touch type promoting both sides of my body being used
- I continue to create art
Personality Types & Styles Of Learning
- Being idiosyncratic and solitary meant that I was empowered by trying to do do things in my own time, my own way and with a small amount of people so I could get direction
- Being serious and mercurial meant that I was able to things with a level of focus and with element of free-will and boundary making and making it fun and light-hearted
- I have a kinesthetic style of learning with a mixture of solitary and social learning
- Exposure Anxiety – Meant that being indirectly confrontational was the best way for me to feel included without the “watching, waiting, expecting” nature of direct contact setting or “retaliation and diversion” responses
- Aphasia/Language Processing and Visual Perceptional Issues – Breaking down communication into smaller chunks, using gesture, tone, inflection, objects of reference, one topic at a time and one context at a time
Through looking at the different pieces of one’s autism (or autisms) if hemiplegia is apart of the profile it may be worth thinking of different ways to empower the person, gaining confidence and trying out new activities without fear and/or anxiety about getting things wrong but focusing on the little steps as always communication, sensory integration, sensory perceptual, associated personality types and any other issues would have to be taken into account.
Paul Isaacs 2017