So what's the difference?
After deciding to go to Euro-Peds and following my announcement of our plans, I got a lot of support, but I couldn't help but feel confusion coming from the other end. I know many people were wondering why? and what now? and how will that be different?
I wasn't looking for anything to be different as far as therapy goes. I was looking for more intensive therapy. Period. I was intrigued with Euro-Peds and it happened to work out on many different levels.
So we embarked on our Euro-Peds journey and these are the comparisons I can gather.
First I'll tell you all a little about NAPA. It's interesting to go to another place that offers about the same type of therapy because I now have a different perspective. I'll make it clear here that I don't think one place is better than the other. I love them both equally and for different reasons and I would go back to both again.
NAPA is a huge warehouse next to the LA airport in California. It's beautifully sunny most of the year and gorgeous. I love California. It's pretty much awesome. There are a handful of amusement parks and a ton of things to do within an hour in all directions. And there's the beach! As for NAPA it's right in the center of things. It's a really neat place. You walk in to the main area and it's wide open and bright. There's a huge plywood tree with a real swing hanging from it. There is a zipline that runs across the room where the kids are flung from one end of the room to the other and a fit of giggling ensues.
All of the stretching and exercise mats are located in the same area for the most part. All of the cages are, as well. In fact, with exception to a few rooms, mostly everything is located in the same area. This is great for meeting new parents. Really, NAPA has a great set up for other parents to meet, talk, and share experiences. There is a large kitchen and living room-like area for everyone to convene and relax. You'll often find siblings playing video games and moms chatting while typing on their laptops.
Right away, the therapist takes over. For the first two hours, at least for with Christian, there is one therapist who handles all stretching, range of motion, suit therapy, and positioning. This is pretty intense and you pretty much hand your kid to them and they take over. Kids are pushed and challenged and it's more like a PT boot camp. The last two hours consisted of cage therapy, maybe some trampoline activity, and standing for the last part of it. The wonderful Tomatis Therapy is also offered. It's a separate service and an additional one to two hours per day.
The staff is very experienced and they've worked with all levels of ability and severity. They seem to fully expect every child to rise to their potential and I like that. The real program is three weeks, but we only did one due to time and cost.
Therapy is intense, if I haven't already mentioned that. There is a lot of crying and sore muscles but there are gains from this. Christian came back with more ability to bare weight on his arms and better head control. They also loosened up his quads prior to Botox, which is a feat in itself.
Euro-Peds is located in Pontiac, Michigan. That's about 40 minutes north of Detroit. It's beautiful and green but the state has been hit hard by the economy and Pontiac seems to have been particularly economically depressed as evident in the boarded up businesses and vacant building that stand unaccounted for. But the people of Michigan are some of the nicest people I've met. They are hospitable and helpful, pleasant and unpretentious. For this Arizona girl, big trees and early fall leaves are an amazement. There were a lot of Wow! Look at those colorful leaves! as if I'd never before seen anything like it.
Euro-Peds, as I've mentioned, is in the oldest hospital in Oakland County, I'm told. The clinic is set up much like a regular pediatric clinic with a front desk and waiting room. Each child has there own, private room. It's quieter, although I'm told in the summer it gets a little more lively.
The therapy is tailored to what the child needs most. The first two hours are spent on massage and muscle warm up, primarily, and the next two hours are dedicated to physical therapy. The therapy also include electric muscle stimulation. It's not quite as intense as NAPA. There isn't as much crying. I liken it more to regular physical therapy in huge doses.
Parents are definitely taken care of at Euro-Peds. We were greeted with a gift basket at the hotel. We were given a discount to the local outlet mall and restaurants. There was a whole wall of pamphlets with things to do while in Michigan. Euro-Peds has also created relationships with local hotels and secured phenomenal rates for small apartment-type extended stay rooms with mini-kitchens, which is HUGE because we were there for two weeks! Some families are there for three and four weeks. And it was so affordable. Euro-Peds makes it easy to stay in Michigan and I felt like I had a lot of support while there.
Christian's therapist was very knowledgeable. She explained all the stretches and reasons behind each stretch and move. They also recorded sessions with Christian and put it on a DVD for me to study when we get home. Christian got a certificate of completion and a Euro-Peds t-shirt because he was a graduate!
Finacially, above all, is was less expensive to make the trip all the way to the Midwest than to drive up to California. Seriously. And, yes, I will talk about expenses which in some circles may be faux pas but it's extremely important to the decision we make as parents, let alone special needs parents. My goal is to help and inform parents and children, not worry about how politically correct I am. Bottom line is Euro-Peds was about half the cost. As for the accommodations, the deal we got on the hotel was great! I won't quote exactly in case they change it, but for a one bedroom with two queens and a pull out couch that sleeps six adults with a small kitchen, breakfast included everyday, and three dinners a week (all included) it was well under $100 a night for Euro-Peds patients and their families. Accommodations while doing therapy anywhere is one of the biggest drawbacks, usually, because it can meet or exceed the cost of the actual therapy program.
The NAPA center is a large, bright, open room with music and parents and kids all convening in the same area. EP is in a hospital setting and each child has a private room.
NAPA is more intense with their exercises and tries almost everything available. EP customizes each program for what the child needs in a more concentrated way. EP is also not as intense in exercise.
EP is quieter, while NAPA is a little louder.
NAPA is in Calfornia, which means good weather, a ton of stuff to do, but more expensive to stay there. EP is in Michigan, which mean you should be selective in the time of year you go and it's less expensive to stay.
EP really takes care of the parents, giving local discounts and deals in the nearby community (which I absolutely love), while there's more opportunity to talk to other parents and see other kids similar to yours on a daily basis at NAPA.
Leaving NAPA we discussed which exercises would be beneficial, while leaving EP I received a DVD with footage of Christian's actual therapy and how to do it with detailed instruction (which has also been passed along to Christian's PT here).
EP includes two hours of massage with heating pads including facials and electrical muscle stimulation, while NAPA center offers Tomatis therapy, Vital Stim, and OT services.
I don't know this for sure, but I think NAPA might see more children with a greater range and severity of disability, while EP has been around longer.
EP also has a scholarship program through the North Oakland Foundation, Christian was a recipient of $1000 from this foundation, which was applied directly to his suit therapy. I was also given three pages of resources and organizations with scholarships and grant programs for various types of therapies, which I hope to be able to post on this site to help other get funding for their kiddos. There were also resources for so many special needs programs and items like abilities bikes, special chairs, conductive education, dolphin therapy, and so much more! It was a wealth of information.
I'll be posting again, and if I can think of anymore comparisons, I'll definitely share.
All of these comparisons are based solely on my own observations and experiences and most of them, I'm not saying whether one is good or bad. One child may get distracted by other children, while others are encouraged by them. One child may thrive with more intense workouts, while others respond to gentler exercises. It's all about preference and what works for your child.
With the exception of the financial aspect, I can't say for sure which program is or was better for Christian. Time will tell and we're not far enough out from Christian's therapy at EP to really make an accurate assessment. As of now, I would visit both again.
The common denominator in all of this is intensive therapy. The more hours put into a PT program the better, it's plain and simple and I am so passionate about this but I'm saving my soapbox moment for my next post.
Until then...I hope this helped those of you trying to decide on a therapy program in California, Michigan, or anywhere in the country.
March for Science
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