In mid June, my young autistic client, Tej, went on what should have been a ‘highlight of his life’ graduating (Grade 8) class trip to Cape Breton. Instead, he contracted a nasty bacterial infection that compromised most of his bodily functions. Almost immediately, he became violently ill, developed a temperature of 104.2 Fahrenheit and was unable to keep any food in his system. His body weight plummeted to 98 pounds from 112 pounds (he is not a large lad). Over the next 8 weeks, he was specially treated for the infection and monitored carefully for any side-effects.
Just before Tej left on the trip, we had a final training session where the results indicated to me that his level of overall fitness was at an all-time high. Needless to say, after fighting to get well since mid June, I was concerned that the fitness gains would be basically lost by the time we met to resume training on August 10. If you compare the photo of him below with photos from earlier blog posts, you will notice the gaunt appearance. The interesting part was his balance on 1 leg with eyes closed and Barefoot-Science inserts in the shoes had actually stayed the same. He locked in quickly and remained stable for 60 seconds on each leg.However, he showed significantly asymmetrical with the left side compromised. He had only slight pain in his left hip and knee. I put Tej through my standard unlocking drills (as per the series of photos below – note I did not have him use the Functional Chain Trainer cord system to activate his Extensor Chain due to a concern that he would not be strong enough to handle the resistance yet. He actually had no problem doing the drill!).
He then showed as symmetrical which allowed me to put him through a series of balancing and
Above, he ran on the spot for 1 minute with eyes closed without traveling outside the pylons. This indicates a high level of proprioceptive feedback and vestibular balance not often evident in most of us without significant training (try this at home!). Tej shocked me in his ability to complete ALL of the drills I laid out without too much difficulty.The 2 and 1 legged balancing drills on the flat and rounded sides of the Bosu Ball were done with eyes open and closed. Again, Tej handled these surprisingly well. Even he was impressed with his performance!!!
I then tested his ability to run over the Bosu Balls forward and backward along with running backwards with his eyes closed. Again, I wanted to test his ability to process complex physical tasks without undue fatigue. He passed each test with flying colours – not perfect but close!!
We finished with a series of ball bouncing drills to test his coordination and reaction time to varying stimuli (bouncing the ball versus throwing it level and reacting to different angles of impact without dropping the ball). Again, Tej did surprisingly well on these – we had not done them for at least 4 months.
My only explanation for Tej’s exceptional performance was muscle memory from the 10 months of training prior to his illness. It also indicated to me that children with physical and mental health challenges CAN perform progressively more difficult physical activities even after setbacks. Doing so helps them integrate better among peers and also improves self-worth.
In my books, there is no such word as LIMITATION!!!
Congratulations, Tej, and welcome back!!!