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A life-changing camp for Lucy

The camp is an intensive three-week program for children with hemiplegia.

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Lucy Schneidmiller has hemiplegia — a condition causing weakness or paralysis on one side of the body — but through a special camp put on by the Children’s Therapy Unit, she’s making strides and meeting other children just like her.

Lucy, 7, had a stroke in utero that caused her right-sided hemiplegia. Her parents, Abbey and Kyle Schneidmiller, didn’t know anything was wrong the first few months of her life because she was a healthy baby otherwise. Abbey had a healthy pregnancy and straightforward delivery, so there was never a cause for concern.

It wasn’t until Lucy began grabbing for toys and using one hand predominantly that her parents noticed something was amiss.

“At about 4 months of age, we noticed she wasn’t using the right side of her body as much as she probably should have,” Abbey says.

After appointments and tests, doctors determined Lucy had had a stroke, possibly in utero, that was likely the cause of her right-sided hemiplegia. Lucy began physical and occupational therapy, and later speech therapy, before attending a “constraint-induced movement therapy” camp.

The camp, put on by Mary Bridge Children’s Therapy Unit (CTU) at Good Samaritan, is an intensive three-week program put on in the summer for children with hemiplegia or other forms of trauma.

The CTU offers therapy services to infants, children and teens with special needs, such as hemiplegia, cerebral palsy, other motor disorders and autism, with the goal of helping them become as independent as possible — and the camp is no exception.

Throughout the three-week camp at CTU, children wear a cast or orthotic on their dominant hand and are asked to complete tasks such as eating and playing games using their affected side.

By restricting their dominant side in this way, the camp helps children train their affected side to work better for them, says Lucretia Berg, an occupational therapist at CTU.

“It helps them to see that, ‘I can use that side, and I have the ability to do something I never thought I could do,” she says.

Plus, it shows children they’re not alone.

“Often times coming to the camp is the first time they have ever seen another child with hemiplegia,” Berg says. “Their eyes brighten and they think, ‘You’re just like me.’”

Lucy’s progress through therapy and particularly through the camp is noticeable to her parents. It helps that she doesn’t give up, they say.

“One of the things about Lucy is that she’s a really determined kid, which at times can be really trying, but it really has served her well,” Abbey says. “When she’s motivated about something and puts her mind to it, she really does tackle it head on.

“Constraint camp has offered her a lot more ability but also a lot more confidence,” she continues. “It’s really just normalized her disability for her. It’s been life changing.”

Interested in enrolling your child in camp? Contact Lynda Johnson, supervisor of orthotic services at the CTU: 253-697-5275.

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