Rehabilitation in review: Helping children and young adults
Rehabilitation in review: Helping children and young adults
Whether it’s animal-assisted, game-aided, or by using digital tools – targeted early rehabilitation is important, if not essential for children and young adults with disabilities to promote self-determination and positive quality of life outcomes. What are the latest trends and developments? And how does the Coronavirus pandemic affect the industry sector?
Dogs, horses, and dolphins are arguably the most popular choices when it comes to animal-assisted therapy as a modality to facilitate healing and rehabilitation. They have all proven to be effective supports in the treatment and assistance of children and young adults with disabilities over the years. "The success of these therapies has prompted an increasing number of clinical facilities to use trained animals in rehabilitation and educate staff members," says Alwin Baumann, spokesperson of the German Alliance for Pediatric and Adolescent Rehabilitation (Bündnis Kinder-und Jugendreha e.V.).
Christiana Hennemann, Executive Director of rehaKIND - Internationale Fördergemeinschaft Kinder- und Jugend Rehabilitation e.V. (International Pediatric and Adolescent Rehabilitation Support Program), knows that animal therapy has a variety of benefits and can help people of all ages. It is especially successful on opposites of the age spectrum, meaning children and the elderly. "Children are open and accepting of animals and they respect their idiosyncrasies – of course, this must always be in a supervised setting because animal helpers are ultimately still animals. However, once they have overcome their fear of animals, children and young adults can reap many benefits."
But it's not just animals that can make the treatment process more effective and often less daunting for children and young adults. Virtual therapy programs and gamification also enjoy increasing popularity and have a motivational power on rehabilitation: "Children and young adults have been raised as 'digital natives' and respond well to playfulness and digital tools. This gives them more incentives to embark on therapy and increases motivation," Hennemann speaks from experience. In an interview with REHACARE.com, she talks about other trends and developments she has noticed over the past two decades.
Thanks to his work with the German Alliance for Pediatric and Adolescent Rehabilitation, Alwin Baumann can also attest that the increasing use of technology in medicine has broadened the range of both diagnostic and therapeutic options and has opened up new possibilities in the process. He confirms that all the improvements that have been made to benefit children and young adults with disabilities and their families have ultimately been made possible by increased digitalization.
Baumann says there has generally been an increase in family inclusion and participation in recent years. This family-oriented approach to rehabilitation aims to promote family strengths and skills to foster self-reliance. "German rehabilitation centers primarily focus on inpatient measures that take several weeks in special locations. This concept is quite unique, sophisticated and successful when compared to the rest of the world," says Baumann. "Germany still needs to catch up when it comes to outpatient rehabilitation and aftercare for continued recovery. The respective medical and therapeutic options are available. However, what is missing is the comprehensive integration of these services into one outpatient rehabilitation facility."
Unfortunately, German rehabilitation facilities currently face a new set of challenges: because of the Coronavirus pandemic, they have been unable to accept patients in urgent need of rehabilitation since mid-March. Find out how the clinical facilities have coped with this situation over the past few weeks in our article Rehabilitation during the Coronavirus outbreak: Clinical facilities stay flexible.
Protective measures are necessary in all areas of life due to the current corona pandemic – also in the rehabilitation of children and young people.
In Germany, rehabilitation facilities have now been allowed to accommodate children and young adults with disabilities again since at least early June, though this doesn’t mean that everything will return to how things were pre-pandemic. Indeed, it’s now more important than ever to follow the hygiene and physical distancing guidelines to protect rehabilitation patients and staff members.
"Transparency is paramount to inform patients and their families about important hygiene and distancing aspects and how the mandatory hygiene and physical distancing guidelines will change the nature of rehabilitation therapy practice," according to the Federal German Pension Insurance, Department of Rehabilitation (DRV-Bund) website. "To ensure infection prevention and protection, therapies requiring intensive physical contact such as massages are to be avoided or only implemented with extensive personal protective equipment. Participants of group therapies or lectures must maintain a minimum distance of 1.5 meters apart from others, while group size is limited."
The current situation is a reminder for employees of the Department of Rehabilitation at the DRV-Bund that they must always be flexible and address the individual abilities and needs in an adaptive manner. The Department says, "Even if digital rehabilitation options are a great complement to multimodal rehabilitation, children still need the rehabilitation at the facility site and the physical presence of rehabilitants and the rehabilitation team to ensure individualized care, thus making it a top priority." That’s why it is more important than ever for all participants to follow the new rules and regulations in the near future to enable children and young adults with disabilities to undergo safe and targeted rehabilitation – setting the stage for a self-determined life.