Although this anonymous case history was written by a Camphill Special School houseparent and teacher, not Peter’s own parents, we thought visitors to our web site might like to read it.
When Peter arrived at Camphill Special School, a stack of therapy reports arrived with him. The reports stated the obvious: Peter was epileptic, with motor and verbal apraxia and severe ataxia. He suffered from seizures, shaking so uncontrollably that he would knock over anything he tried to pick up, and had such poor control of his legs that he could barely walk and frequently fell over. His speech was slurred and he stuttered, and as a result Peter was painfully shy.
The reports themselves were inconclusive. Most assumed his condition was degenerative and none suggested any hope for substantial improvement. Peter’s mother was concerned that he would need a wheel chair soon in addition to his walker and believed that decline was inevitable. On Peter’s first day at The Children’s Village at Beaver Run, she spent the afternoon settling him into his new house and went home feeling sad and depressed.
Peter was a cheerful eleven year old boy. He always smiled and had a joke on his lips. When he fell over he apologized for the inconvenience he caused. The staff at Beaver Run immediately developed a regime of therapeutic activities. With the direction of the School’s Medical Director and advice of our physical therapist, Peter began a daily program of exercise. His house parents took him on walks in the early morning, afternoon, and evening. The occupational and physical therapists worked directly with him, as did the horseback riding and eurhythmy therapists. His teacher incorporated games into his school lessons that encouraged motor planning and kinesthetic skills. Speech therapists teased out his expressive ability.
Peter learned to throw and catch a ball. He learned to sit on a horse. Slowly, week by week, month by month, his control of his movements improved. He began to eat independently with a fork. He picked up a glass of water on his own for the first time. He started walking up the stairs instead of crawling. Short strolls turned into mile long walks on country roads. Soon Peter was hiking through the woods with his friends. Not content to merely sit on a horse, Peter learned to ride. His gross motor skills improved so much that, with helmet and kneepads, he could use a wheelbarrow and pitchfork to muck out the barn.
Peter began to apologize less and assumed control of his own life. Friendships blossomed as a rich social life with his peers became possible. Peter lost his timidity and began to express himself without embarrassment over his slurred speech. He was proud of what he was achieving. You could see it in his eyes and in his smile. You could hear it when he pointed his thumb at his chest after leading the big draft horse in from the pasture, exclaiming “Me!” I’ve done it, he would tell us, for myself and by myself. Peter developed the most important ability of all: he became a contributing member of the Camphill Special School community.
Peter graduated several years ago. He still visits the School regularly and continues making progress. Every year he shakes a little less and stands a little taller. Reports can be wrong. At Camphill Special School, we don’t believe everything we read.