Ability Plus Therapy
Overcoming Developmental Obstacles
Born out of a mother’s need to provide the best therapy in the world for her two children with cerebral palsy, and to change the lives of children with disabilities in Brevard County and around the world, Ability Plus Therapy offers rehabilitative therapy solutions to children with sensory and neuro-muscular disorders.
At 18 months old, Laura and Lane Joslin’s oldest son, Cheyne, was diagnosed with spastic quadriparesis cerebral palsy, a disorder in which all four limbs are affected by brain damage. When Cheyne was 9 years old and learning to walk on a walker, the couple adopted Matthew at age 3, who also suffers from spastic quadriparesis cerebral palsy.
“Ability Plus Therapy was founded not as a business venture, but as a mission of love as parents to impact disabled children’s lives,” says Laura Joslin, who founded the organization in 2004.
Now, nearly six years later, Ability Plus Therapy has grown to include a team of nine physical, occupational and speech language therapists, overseen by the Clinic Director Roberta Neves, MSPT, who has been Laura Joslin’s business partner since 2006.
The Therasuit Method
Neves, who is originally from Brazil and graduated with her master’s degree from Florida International University in Miami in 2002, was the first therapist in the country to use suit therapy/TheraSuit on a child with autism. She has developed a program that directly teaches children with autism to use both the left and right sides of their brains. In return the integration of the tactile, vestibular, visual and the proprioceptive systems create long-term effects on physiological changes, as well as sociological changes.
Suit therapy, which developed out of a Russian space suit used to counteract the harmful effects of weightlessness on the body, has been proven to help children with many developmental disorders including cerebral palsy, autism, traumatic brain injury (TBI), Down syndrome and mild to moderate sensory issues. This technology was eventually passed along to rehabilitation experts who developed a suit for children to aid in the treatment of various neurological disorders.
Eventually, the TheraSuit, which is currently used at Ability Plus Therapy, was developed to aid in Intensive Suit Therapy.
“TheraSuit’s major goal is to improve and change proprioception (pressure from the joints, ligaments, muscles), reduce a patient’s pathological reflexes, restore physiological muscle synergies (proper patterns of movement) and load the entire body with weight (a process similar to muscles’ reaction to gravitational forces),” explains Neves.
“TheraSuit worn over a prolonged time will correct proprioception and accelerate the progress.”
Proof of the Intensive Suit Therapy program’s effectiveness is witnessed in patients’ results. In just three weeks, children who undergo Intensive SuitTherapy have shown vast improvements, acquiring skills such as rolling, crawling, sitting, standing and walking, which may have been unachievable with traditional therapy, or may have taken months or years to achieve.
TheraSuit is the only one of these kinds of devices in U.S. registered with Food and Drug Administration (FDA) meeting all requirements and regulations, and all therapists at Ability Plus Therapy are fully trained in the TheraSuit method.
Intensive Therapy Program
Combining various equipment, such as TheraSuit, the Universal Exercise Unit, parallel bars, stairs, a treadmill and more, Ability Plus Therapy employs an Intensive Therapy program, offering optimal functional outcomes and accelerating progress in children’s sensory processing and motor skills through strength, flexibility, increased endurance, balance, coordination, vestibular and enhanced functional skill training. “Through the use of the Universal Exercise Unit we can eliminate gravitational forces acting on the body, facilitating weak muscle groups and active movement,” says Neves.
The Intensive Therapy/TheraSuit program is three to four hours a day, five days a week for three weeks.
Physical, Occupational, & Speech Therapy
In addition to suit therapy, the organization’s skilled therapists also offer traditional physical therapy, mainly focusing on strength, balance, coordination and flexibility. “Our physical therapists have the best equipment available, like Sure Hand’s ceiling track system, which improves balance, coordinationand control in the ability to have a child be able to practice walking without relying on the hands of a therapist,” says Laura Joslin.
Ability Plus Therapy’s occupational therapist assistant, Amanda Alonso, COTA, is overseeing the development of a program for children with autism, using pressure points in the hand to produce writing stability. As a result, the organization is achieving communication from non-verbal autistic children through handwriting.
Speech therapy is another focus, and the organization is expanding this segment to include specialized services, such as augmentative communication.
In an effort to expand internal knowledge and breadth, two of Ability Plus Therapy’s physical therapists are currently going through neurodevelopmental treatment (NDT) training and will become NDT-certified physical therapists. Accordingto the association’s website, NDT is a problem solving approach to the examination and treatment of the impairments and functional limitations of individuals with neuropathology, primarily children with cerebral palsy and adults with stroke or TBI.
Moving forward, Laura Joslin and Roberta Neves’ team of amazing therapists will continue to meet the needs of the disabled children. “We currently have a school (named) No Limits Academy for children who are physically impaired, and we would love to have a facility that would include aqua therapy and horseback therapy (also known as hippotherapy),” Laura Joslin says.
The success and achievements of the therapies used at Ability Plus Therapy are clear. The Joslin’soldest son, Cheyne, who is 19 years old, went from being completely wheelchair bound to walking on hand canes, and is now learning to walk without canes. “That is just one of the many miracles we see every day at Ability Plus Therapy. We will never stop growing and improving our services to the community in Brevard and the world to make differences in children’s lives,” says Laura Joslin.