First Steps Wellness Centre

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Children's Program Testimonials

David’s Testimonial

David is a 15 year old boy with cerebral palsy with limited ability to move on his own. From age three we have taken him out of province for the summer to attend physiotherapy programs to help him develop gross and fine motor skills and improve his overall health.

Due to COVID-19 we decided to look for options closer to home this year and a friend recommended First Steps Children’s program.

David has attended twice a week for the past three months. His instructors have been engaging and professional. They assessed him and developed a personalized exercise program to help him strengthen his muscles and improve the coordination of his movements. Already we have seen significant improvement in his strength and his ability to control his arm movements.

It’s not easy to keep a teenager interested in 90 minutes of exercise but David’s instructors make working
out fun – motivating him to achieve his goals and treating him with respect. First Steps has become an important part of David’s health routine and has help keep his spirits up during a difficult time.

Pam Bristol, November 05, 2020

Eli’s Testimonial

Hello Everyone,

There is no way my family has the ability to express the amount of gratitude we feel for your continued support and belief in Eli. He has gained so much. It warms my heart to tears and if you know me at all you know I don’t cry. You have taken on our son and given all of us hope where other professionals have either given up or outright blamed Eli’s challenges on our parenting or the fact that both parents have disabilities.

Thank you for your recognition of our efforts to give Eli the very best chances we can to navigate the world with the esteem he deserves. Thank you also for recognizing verbally to Eli that he works hard and tries to do his best. Maybe that’s why he told his friend “I like Mommy’s and my gym I have friends there!”

In gratitude,

Cindy Leggott, October 27, 2020

Blake’s Testimonial

Crawling is something we’ve all experienced at one time in our lives. Hands and arms, knees and legs working together to move us to our desired destination.

Now imagine crawling but with only the use of your hands and arms. Your legs are immobile and essentially dragging behind you.

That’s what crawling is like for three-year-old Blake. Yes, boys his age usually are walking to their parents. But not Blake. He was born three months premature and with spastic quadriplegia, the most severe form of cerebral palsy. He’ll likely never walk.

Crawling is Blake’s challenge. Just a few months ago Blake didn’t have the strength to crawl. In fact, rolling from his stomach onto his back was no sure thing.

That’s where the First Steps Wellness Centre comes in. An intensive five-week program for Blake at First Steps has allowed him to not only pull off continuous rolls and possess a better sense of balance, but it also has given him the strength and the ability to use his arms independent from one another.

The sight of Blake using his arms to move himself across the floor has his mother Jennifer sporting an ear-to-ear smile. Crawling, even though it’s not the most conventional form, is a small victory.

Jennifer can remember a time not too long ago when Blake would tip over in his wheelchair and be unable to correct himself. His chair needed supports to prevent tipping.

But that’s in the past now.

Blake’s sessions at First Steps included usage of the Therasuit, an orthotic used to improve and change proprioception, reduce pathological reflexes and restore physiological muscle synergies.

As well, Blake was able to strengthen specific muscle and improve his range of motion through work with the universal exercise unit.

But his visits aren’t always all work and no play. Therapists who work with Blake are flexible in their approach and incorporate games and fun activities to pique his interest in exercises.

“But now he loves doing all of it. Has become a lot stronger so he’s able to do a lot more and it’s a lot more fun for him now,” Blake’s mom Jennifer explained.

Not only have regular sessions with First Steps made an impact on Blake’s physical capabilities, they’ve also improved his mental well being.

“He loves this program so much. He is always so excited to come here. The staff has been so amazing with him. When he’s having a bad day, they’ll switch it up and adapt with him,” Jennifer added.

“I just wanted to see if he could get closer to walking just because we didn’t see much progress in the past year. We wanted to see if there was a different way of looking at therapy that we hadn’t come across. We’ve been really happy with everything they’ve done here at First Steps. The model they use has really benefitted Blake.”

Jennifer Spier, May 5, 2017

Kieran’s Testimonial

The roller coaster of emotions Kieran, his parents and siblings have been riding the past three years has experienced fewer valleys lately.

Kieran’s mother Kelly is certain First Steps Wellness Centre has played a significant role in that.

A dramatic improvement in Kieran’s physical capabilities, as well as plenty of chatter and smiles has him almost unrecognizable to his family.

“He’s a completely different kid than he was a couple years ago. He was in a wheelchair and staring into space with little to no quality of life. He couldn’t talk… he was non-verbal for almost two and a half years,” explained Kelly of her 15-year-old son.

“(First Steps) is Heaven sent. I don’t know where Kieran would be without this place. We’ve seen so much improvement since we’ve started coming here,” Kelly said.

There’s hope the multiple daily seizures, induced comas and brain swelling Kieran had been suffering are in the past. These days, Kieran is playing wheelchair basketball and Challenger baseball. He just recently wrapped up another sledge hockey season.

He’s still a reach from the healthy and active boy he was three years ago when he suffered a life-changing respiratory event that led to a brain injury, one that is yet to be fully diagnosed. Nonetheless, Kieran has the ability to compete athletically because of increased strength in his arms and core. 

Prior to his treatments with First Steps staff, Kieran was described by his mother as a “ragdoll”. His sitting balance was shaky, he had difficulty holding his head up, and he had little to no ability in his left arm/hand.

For more than two years, Kieran has been working hard at First Steps on average of about three to four hours per week. He and his family have noticed a drastic improvement physically and mentally. With the support of T-bars, Kieran’s balance, sitting and standing is a lot better. Sit-ups, push-ups and chin-ups also are a part of his routine.

Overall, Kieran’s energy and enthusiasm has climbed.

“Kieran is a happy kid now. The Kieran I know – because he was so athletic and loved running and playing with his friends – would be completely devastated knowing that he could never walk again and play with his friends like he used to. But he’s always smiling and that’s a good thing.”

“The staff is really great to work with. They’re great with Kieran. They don’t treat him like he doesn’t have hope. They always treat him like he has hope. He likes being here, he’s very comfortable here… he’s able to see other kids progress when they’re here and that motivates him.”

Kelly Vermeulen-Jackson, May 4, 2017

Hunter’s Testimonial

My son Hunter has been doing therapy in the Children’s program at First Steps Wellness Center since the end of August 2016. Hunter is three years old and was born with a neurological defect that has had profound effects on his development both physically and mentally. One of his biggest challenges is his severe lack of muscle tone and does not have any significant independent mobility at this time. Hunter has made a lot of encouraging changes since being at First Steps, his neck and head control, core, legs and arms strength have made remarkable progress.

His therapist, Sandi, is now concentrating on continuing the muscle building and getting things coordinated for meaningful movement. We’re also delighted to see how Hunter is so much more aware of his surroundings and how he is connecting with people. Hunter is maturing and being so expressive with his voice and body language as well. We are so grateful for First Steps and the staff’s dedication, passion and training that have been there to help my son and so many others.

Nancy Grant, December 27, 2016

Breanna’s Testimonial

How can one put a value on the self-esteem of a child? You can’t, but at First Steps Wellness Centre, amongst some of the most important progress I have ever seen Breanna make, they have helped her to increase just that- self-esteem. Confidence in herself to run, jump, skip, stand on one foot, and begin to do things that “neurotypical” children her age have been doing for years and that she’s been incapable and afraid to do. Resiliency is a life skill that a child with a disability needs to learn to perfect, however, self-esteem is something that is difficult to build with a disability when the world can be so inaccessible and ignorant.

How was this possible? Well, we chose First Steps Wellness Centre for the main reason of them having a Therasuit© in Breanna’s size but we received so much more. Breanna is 5 years old and has Cerebral Palsy affecting all four limbs as well as hypotonia in her joints. Her Cerebral Palsy is classified as mild, however, she has always been classified as a “special case” because it doesn’t affect her the way it would someone else with her same brain injury. At First Steps Wellness, Erika used mainly reflex integration (MNRI), strength training, and the Therasuit© Method as programming for Breanna. Reflex integration was done in its typical form and through play. Through play, Erika was able to work on coordination, balance, spatial awareness, and targeted muscle activation to really help create and solidify those neuropathways. As mentioned, much of the children’s programming was done through play. For a child, it is important to create enjoyment in therapy in order to foster a desire for the child to want to continue therapy as they age and for them to see the benefits that therapy and training adds to one’s quality of life.

By the end of the 4 weeks intensive Breanna completed, the most noticeable differences that she was not able to complete prior to attending were:

  • The ability to balance and jump on one foot.
  • The ability to transfer weight from side to side.
  • The ability to run with knees up and heels kicking the bum.
  • The ability to jump on the ground and trampoline with ease and correct landings.
  • The ability to have her toes in a relaxed position. Due to the CP, Breanna always had her toes grasped to aid in balancing and stability. With the help of reflex integration, Breanna’s toes are now always relaxed and flat/straight on the ground.
  • The ability to leap.
  • The ability to walk down stairs unassisted (both up and down) and to even jump down stairs unassisted.
  • Several reflexes are now integrated which improves daily function in everyday tasks for Breanna.
  • The ability to roll on a mat.
  • The ability to stand up from a sitting or kneeling position without required assistance or hands on the ground.
  • The ability to kneel.
  • The ability to stay in table top and other hand-supporting positions with arms straight.
  • The ability to use her core and the awareness to engage it when needed. Ex. Breanna was never able to sit going down a slide as she would always fall backwards. She resorted to laying down going down slides. She is now able to sit while going down a slide and land on her feet.
  • The ability to sit up while tucking her chin unassisted.
  • The ability to hold a fork or spoon correctly and comfortably without tiring easily.
  • The ability to control her printing and drawing when using a writing utensil.
  • There are so many more things that have improved, however, these would be considered the most noticeable.

Erika, who was the main therapist working with Breanna was incredible. She is kind, patient, flexible, and respectful. I believe that it is important when working with a child to respect what they are communicating with you and for the child to feel like they are being heard: she does just that. From the first conversation with Erika, it was obvious that she is passionate about what she does and is well-educated. By well-educated, she is not only knowledgeable in the therapies that First Steps offers, but she is also always staying up to date and learning new skills to make improvements. When you come from a rigid health care system that is super behind compared to other countries to arrive at First Steps Wellness where non-traditional techniques and therapies are used consistently with amazing results, it’s a huge relief.

All of the other therapists working with Breanna were equally as wonderful and everyone brings something of value to the table. I’ve always believed that variety is beneficial throughout any learning and therapy process and Breanna’s progress at First Steps Wellness demonstrated just this. At First Steps Wellness Centre, you see professionals working as a team and not individuals out for personal gain. 

Walking into First Steps Wellness Centre in Regina is like coming home. Whether it’s the first visit or the 100th visit, you are amongst parents and individuals who are all there for the same reason. As a parent of a child with a disability, it is difficult to have “normal” relationships with certain people who don’t understand the need to offer your child the absolute best therapies and who don’t understand the financial strain this can put on a family. At First Steps Wellness, there is no need for explanation: everyone gets it and supports each other. 

I would highly recommend First Steps Wellness Centre to anyone searching for therapies that actually create progress and results in an environment that as their slogan states, “recognizes potential, not limits.” Everyone is different, however, First Steps Wellness creates individual programming based on an individual’s goals and circumstances. At First Steps Wellness, you are not your health care number, you are family.

Mercedes Bender, Edmonton, ABDecember 28th, 2018

First Steps Wellness Centre

First Steps Wellness Centre (FSWC) is a non-profit organization with charitable status. We opened our doors in 2010 and have become the leading facility in Canada for spinal cord injury and neurorehabilitation. We provide innovative activity-based therapy (ABT) for people with spinal cord injuries and associated disorders.

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