As many of you know, lots of things make me cry. An email from a client has never been one of them – until yesterday. Let me explain and segments of my client’s email inserted periodically in the content that follows – along with the title of the blog – will make sense.
About 7 weeks ago, I received an email out of the blue from Susan. In it, she expressed her “desperation” to find ANYONE who could “fix” her 13 year old son, Tej’s, running gait. She found me by Googling ‘technical running coach’ and my name popped up immediately after the Running Room (God only knows how the Running Room falls under ‘technical running coach’ – but that’s a topic for another blog!). After communicating back & forth, we set up to meet at Form & Function in Mississauga, Canada (this is the training centre I use most of the time). The photo below shows Tej
walking for me before we started the session. I’ll let Susan’s words introduce you to young Tej:
“Tej is by and large a normal 13 year old boy who loves to swim, play tennis, golf and now shows an interest in basketball. He also loves to play the piano and chess. The future, however, was NOT always as promising. Tej was born premature which directly led to his stunted development in the 1st 6 years of his life. At the age of two, he was diagnosed with Pervasive Developmental Disorder not otherwise specified – a diagnosis that now falls under Autism Spectrum Disorder. The prognosis was grim. According to his doctors, there was a possibility that Tej would never speak, attend a regular school nor have typical social interaction with others.” As a footnote, Tej’s father, Raj (an internal medicine surgeon with a hectic schedule) has been an integral part of the team trying to get answers to the puzzle.
This is Phase one of Susan’s email to me. I had none of these details when I began working with Tej. All I knew was that he suffered from foot, ankle, knee, hip, low back and left upper shoulder pain that restricted his participation in sports with his peers. He was keen to fit in, to be part of a team, to be accepted by his peers…and none of this was happening. On top of that, he could NOT run a step without pain. As you see below, he was totally misaligned with knees and feet collapsing in. This proved to be a significant challenge for me.I proceeded to test his balance on each leg with eyes opened and closed – needless to say, he could not balance for more than a few seconds. From there, I tested his upper body strength which was non-existent (and this was in his coffin shoes that had custom made orthotics inside!) and his body alignment. His left leg presented 11/4″ shorter than his right – the largest asymmetrical finding I have ever encountered. It is no wonder that all of the pain and injury issues were on Tej’s left side. It took me about 20 minutes to assess all of his issues. I will now let Susan continue:
“I followed all of the doctor’s instructions, and, along with spending close to $500,000 over the course of a decade, I tried everything from:
- occupational therapy, speech therapy, cognitive therapy, Applied Behaviour Therapy
- Intensive Behavioural Intervention, play therapy, gyrostim, hyperbaric chamber
- craniosacral massage, Neuroptimal, Loreta training, physiotherapy, osteopathy
- meditation, yoga, chiropractic care, energy medicine, naturopathy, homeopathy
TO NAME A FEW!!!”
I had to take a deep breath after reading the list. It absolutely gutted me – to think parents (in this case, especially Susan) would sacrifice SO much to help one of their children when the odds were stacked against them. To more fully understand the sacrifices, Susan gave up a highly successful career as a lawyer to advocate for Tej. All she wanted was a chance for her son to realize his full potential. Again, not knowing any of this during our 1st session, I got Tej, walking and then running barefoot. I guided him through my Squat -Scoot technique to see if he could at least brace some of his body and land quietly. As you can see, he was able to drive forward, flick from his heels and keep his hips square. I then proceeded to put him through my unlocking exercises to make him symmetrical. These included the ‘cross’ drills (single leg swings, knee rolls, knee push-pulls).I then had him do the left hip muscle release drill from 1 knee followed by the Health Bridges and Functional Chain Trainer to activate his extensor chain, improve his posture and square him up over the feet.After the unlocking drill segment, I tested Tej’s symmetry again and, lo and behold, his leg length discrepancy was GONE. He was unlocked and lined up after 20 minutes of drills.
I then tested his hip adductor-abductor strength and his ability to fire from his gluteal muscles – essential indicators of the ability to run balanced and pain-free. As you can see, Tej found it impossible to square up with even the lightest resistance band around his knees and ankles ( I will add that after his 4th session with me, he can not only square up but he can do so versus a stronger resistance band).I now let Susan continue:
“Through a very strict nut-free, gluten-free, dairy-free, sugar-free, yeast-free, organic diet, hard work AND LOTS OF LOVE, Tej started improving. He improved so much that he began speaking, attending a normal school, making friends and exceeding all expectations in every way, shape and form! He is the epitome of what perseverance, hard work and dedication can accomplish.”
Further, “throughout those very difficult years, Tej was assessed and re-assessed by several professionals – many of whom worked in the field of assessing a person’s bio-mechanics and gait. Most were quick to point out that Tej had an abnormal gait and flat feet that required orthotics along with intense physiotherapy. For starters, Tej was over-pronating which was creating stress on his knees and hips. In addition, many years of tummy troubles had created muscle wasting and low muscle tone. All of these (along with his neurological diagnosis) contributed to his abnormal gait which, in turn, exacerbated his symptoms of pain and muscle weakness”.
To continue with my work involving Tej, I then got him in the barefoot-science progressive foot strengthening insert-dome system AFTER removing his custom orthotics!Immediately, Tej said his knee, hip and back pain eased off. He was able to walk more squared up and run more upright and balanced. He also could balance on 1 leg with eyes opened and closed for well over 1 minute!I once again let Susan continue:
“Not once did ANY PROFESSIONAL actually attempt to correct Tej’s abnormal gait – which was adding further strain on his hips and knees. Furthermore, no professional attempted to strengthen his foot arches in order to free him from a life-long dependence on orthodics – which seek to brace, rather than strengthen and correct. I found Jeff Stapleton when conducting a google search. I was desperate to find help for my son who was SO SAD that he could NOT run and move like his peers. I was determined to find SOMEONE! Like many people I have encountered along my journey, Jeff’s Name ‘fortuitously’ popped up in my search – and I immediately contacted him.
Jeff’s passion to help, his extensive knowledge and experience, as well as his determination to create a REAL improvement in peoples’ lives are incomparable. He has accomplished more with Tej in the area of bio-mechanics and movement in a matter of 6 weeks than a whole decade spent in occupational therapy and physiotherapy combined!”
My journey with Tej continues as I aim to have him moving like a cat, sinking basket after basket on the court and being the 1st pick by his peers when choosing sides. Beyond that, I want to ensure that he runs injury-free in my barefoot, squat-scoot style (Ok – he won’t run barefoot BUT he WILL run with barefoot-science inserts!)
I will let Susan finish:
“Autism is truly like a puzzle – one full of complexities and intricacies where WE AS PARENTS HAVE TO CAREFULLY PLACE EACH UNIQUE PIECE ONE AT A TIME IN ITS RIGHTFUL PLACE…DUE TO THE FACT THAT OUR CHILDREN ARE UNIQUE AND SPECIAL. Jeff is helping our family with this piece – and for that, we are TRULY grateful!”