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Service project empowers kids in U-M’s NeuroRehab program


ANN ARBOR, MI – For kids with a disability, there can be few opportunities to reach out and help others. But, the University of Michigan Health System’s NeuroRehabilitation summer program plans to change that with a three-part service project aimed at empowering kids with disabilities while helping kids in Africa.

The service project allows kids to maintain an outward focus and gain a sense of self-empowerment, according to Elaine Ledwon-Robinson, speech pathologist and director of the program.

The project, which began June 25 and ends Aug. 1, includes a study skills group that puts together boxes of school supplies to be sent to Kijabe Hospital in Kenya, a creative writing group that writes letters to the recipients of the packages and a newspaper group that puts out a newspaper about Africa based on their research.

“Part of the benefit of this project relates to happiness – I think that a lot of the literature shows that social relationships and being able to do things for other people boosts a sense of happiness,” Ledwon-Robinson says. “But the other part is that when kids have triumphed over adverse circumstances, they and their families naturally tend to be somewhat inward looking and that’s not always the healthiest thing for children.”

One program attendee, 10 year-old Katie Brigger, was diagnosed with Moyamoya disease at age two and has suffered neurological damage from several strokes as a result. Though she has participated in previous service projects for children with disabilities elsewhere, Heather, Katie’s mother, says that Katie never liked attending those programs until she came here.

“Katie actually looks forward to attending and is enthusiastic towards the new service project. I think it’s a great idea that helps kids to feel like they are doing something for others. Yet within that, they are getting something out of it themselves,” Heather says. “She loves being with the other kids and working with the therapists and she loves being in the creative writing group – it really helps her with her writing skills and organizing her thoughts.”

In addition to the Africa-based service project, the NeuroRehab program offers several other service projects. The Community Planning group has collected donations for the Humane Society and spent an afternoon working at Food Gatherers. A younger group of children, enrolled in the Garden Club, is completing a landscaping project for the Therapeutic Horseback Riding facility, located on Joy Road.

The Pediatric NeuroRehab program has been around for 18 years and caters primarily to children with neurological injury or illness due to accidents and other causes. Participants typically stay in the program from six to nine months while they regain speech and cognitive skills, memory and motor functions.

“I think it’s a great way for Katie to gain confidence and have a positive feeling about herself,” Heather says.

On the Web:

Follow this link to contact the Pediatric NeuroRehabilitation program at the University of Michigan Health System, or call (734)998-7710

Written by Charlie Turner


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