This is my favorite work story and the first of my new blog series 'success stories'.
October 3rd, 2017 –
An email comes through from Melissa Mitchell seeking strength training for her six-year-old son Bentley. Melissa is looking for help in getting Bentley into the next stage of his goal of independent walking. Melissa explains that Bentley has cerebral palsy; a disorder that affects muscle control, coordination, tone, posture, and balance.
A week following the email, I met with Bentley and his family at the Mitchell household. I took notes on Bentley’s current abilities and took him through some movements to determine the stability and mobility of his ankles, knees, spine, and hips (the most important joints for walking). We also discussed Bentley’s day to day challenges. Bentley wants to be able to play with his friends during recess, but finds this extremely difficult, since when he falls onto the ground, he cannot get back up without a teacher or additional support. Bentley wants to gain the strength to be able to get up and walk independently without any arm supports.
I was left with many impressions following the consultation with Bentley. What stood out most to me were his two parents with an abundance of love for their child, and a young boy with the brightest of spirits and the ability to smile through anything. I left the consultation hopeful, and extremely eager to begin on our project.
Bentley and I would usually spend an hour at a time together. Forty-five minutes would be working on increasing his strength and stability, and fifteen minutes would be dedicated to playing games. We played handball, mini sticks, basketball, you name it. The goal of our strength training was to increase the strength of Bentley’s stabilizers that surround his ankles, knees, spine, and hips. Bentley endured a lot of ‘boring’ exercises, which was not something that many 6-year olds must do but was found necessary for his growth.
We worked through a progression plan of single leg push strength exercises. Over time, we began to get creative, as we could turn the exercises into games. Bentley loves playing.
After a month of training 2-3 times a week, Bentley started to show big single legged strength improvements. We came up with a strategy to get him to stand up from the ground. We wanted Bentley to start on his hands and toes, rock back onto his heels trying to find his balance point, and then spring into a forward walk. On our first attempt, this goal seemed like a long way off, but we did not underestimate the resiliency of Bentley Mitchell.
Bentley and his parents would continue to practice this exercise even while we weren’t training together.
On December 18th, 2017 - I received this video from Melissa in an email titled ‘Check This Out!!’
Dedication and hard work are key ingredients to any success story. It doesn’t matter how good of a plan you draw up if it is not going to be met with equal dedication.
Thank you, Bentley, for sticking with the plan, even though I am sure you would have rather been playing games with your brothers and sister. Thank you for providing us with this success story. Keep smiling Bentley, because your smile is contagious to all of us.