Newswise — Some young people with cerebral palsy and other conditions exceeded their own expectations during a ski trip to Windham Mountain. The Adaptive Sports Academy at New York City’s Hospital for Special Surgery (HSS) sponsored the trip in February for young patients who see doctors or physical therapists at the hospital. 

The hospital's Adaptive Sports Academy enables pediatric patients with physical disabilities to participate in athletic activities they never dreamed possible. Some have had multiple surgeries to improve their mobility and have been patients at HSS for years.

The Adaptive Sports Academy sponsors trips and recreational activities at no cost to participants to build their self-confidence, encourage independence and increase mobility. The trips are possible thanks to the generosity of donors who support the academy.

Adaptive sports programs promote physical activity for people with disabilities. Trained volunteers from the Adaptive Sports Foundation at Windham provided instruction and adapted equipment for the participants.

“The Adaptive Sports Academy gives our patients a chance to develop new skills and interests, and it promotes mobility and activity. It also reinforces therapy goals by engaging participants in a new activity and requiring them to use their bodies in a new way,” explained Dr. Lisa Ipp, chief of Pediatric Medicine at HSS. “They always feel empowered after trying a new activity and succeeding.”

Eight patients ranging in age from 8 to 16 went on the trip. Most have cerebral palsy or another condition that affects body movement, muscle control, posture and balance. Some of the young people use walking canes, but that didn’t stop them from gliding down the bunny slope. It was the academy’s third trip to Windham Mountain, but for many of the kids, it was their first time skiing.

“It’s amazing to see her. She has cerebral palsy and some doctors said she wasn’t going to walk. I want to cry,” said Angel Redmond, who marveled at seeing her daughter on skis. Fourteen year-old Niayrah has had several surgeries at HSS to improve her mobility.

“Participating in the adaptive ski program was an incredible experience for all and came at such an opportune time as we cheer on Team USA in the winter Olympics! Our children work so hard in their weekly therapy sessions, and this is a way to bring those skills to life, in a real and natural setting,” said Lorene Janowski, an occupational therapist certified in pediatrics at Hospital for Special Surgery who went on the trip.

“Most people take for granted our automatic movement patterns," she added. "Children with physical disabilities put a lot of effort and planning into moving their bodies; therefore adaptive activities such as skiing, are a way for them to challenge themselves, even if it means making modifications and adaptations to meet their goals."  

“I get to slide down the hill, 50 miles per hour,” exclaimed eight year-old Maya Vega, who attended the ski trip with her mother and twin sister, Alexandria.

“It’s a fun and novel experience for the kids, an opportunity for them to be outside, to get the feeling of using their body in a different way,” said Dr. David Scher, a pediatric orthopedic surgeon specializing in treating people with cerebral palsy, who was unable to make this year’s outing, but has been on two previous trips. “For the first time, many can experience that feeling of going fast down a hill, and it’s exhilarating for them.”

“This is a fabulous experience for the kids,” said Andrea Conroy, whose 12 year-old son Aidan made it past the bunny slope. “When you offer this to him, it gives him the opportunity to feel like he can do anything. It helps with his self-esteem and his self-confidence, and he can take that with him when he leaves here.”

About HSS | Hospital for Special Surgery

HSS is the world’s leading academic medical center focused on musculoskeletal health. At its core is Hospital for Special Surgery, nationally ranked No. 1 in orthopedics (for the eighth consecutive year) and No. 3 in rheumatology by U.S. News & World Report (2017-2018). Founded in 1863, the Hospital has one of the lowest infection rates in the country, and was the first in New York State to receive Magnet Recognition for Excellence in Nursing Service from the American Nurses Credentialing Center four consecutive times. An affiliate of Weill Cornell Medical College, HSS has a main campus in New York City and facilities in New Jersey, Connecticut and in the Long Island and Westchester County regions of New York State.

In 2017 HSS provided care to 135,000 patients from 80 countries, and performed more than 32,000 surgical procedures. In addition to Patient Care, HSS leads the field in research, innovation, and education. The HSS Research Institute comprises 20 laboratories and 300 staff members focused on leading the advancement of musculoskeletal health through prevention of degeneration, tissue repair, and tissue regeneration. The HSS Innovation Institute was formed in 2015 to realize the potential of new drugs, therapeutics and devices; the global standard total knee replacement was developed at HSS in 1969, and in 2017 HSS made 130 invention submissions (more than 2x the submissions in 2015). The HSS Education Institute provides continuing medical curriculum to more than 15,000 subscribing musculoskeletal healthcare professionals in 110 countries. Through HSS Global, the institution is collaborating with medical centers worldwide to advance the quality and value of care, and to make world-class HSS care more accessible to more people.

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