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Ballet Therapy for Motor Coordination Difficulties

October 18, 1985|Mike Eberts

Christine Hilger sat on a foam rubber mat facing half a dozen girls sitting attentively and straight-legged. A scratchy classical record played in the background.

"Reach for your feet," Hilger urged, taking the girls through a warm-up exercise. "Reach for the ceiling . . . stretch . . . you won't break."

The scene was an after-school ballet class in Beverly Hills. But Hilger's students have motor coordination difficulties, severe enough so that most attend special classes at school and would not be able to keep up in a regular ballet class.

Hilger, an occupational therapist, believes the special ballet classes provide a relief from physical therapy. "To have therapy day in and day out can be tiresome," she said. "When they get into their teens, especially, they want to be like everyone else."

She said that the course also provides a welcome social outlet for the girls. "After-school activities are a big thing in our culture," she said.

She said that ballet is an excellent exercise for children with motor disabilities because it strengthens the arches, legs, back and trunk muscles, improves coordination and flexibility. "Through the rhythm of the music comes movements that wouldn't come otherwise," she said.

His Heart Is in CPR

Mort R. Lewis, a Marina del Rey screenwriter, has spent 19 years thumping for greater awareness of how cardiopulmonary resuscitation could save at least 100,000 lives annually if the simple procedure were widely taught. So far he has gotten NBC and some other companies to put "CPR Saves Lives" on their postage metering, although he hasn't persuaded the Postal Service to issue a stamp with the same message.

But Lewis is ecstatic that Congress has declared Oct. 20-26 "National CPR Awareness Week." Rep. Henry A. Waxman, the Westside Democrat who chairs a key House health committee, sponsored the resolution.

"I became interested in CPR in 1966 or so when CBS did a '60 Minutes' that showed the salutary effects in Seattle of having many, many people taught CPR. There are so many heart attacks in the entertainment industry that I felt we needed a program to teach CPR and so I started with the Writers Guild of America West and then worked with the Directors Guild here and in the East. . . . "

Lewis notes that "a person given CPR within four to six minutes of suffering a heart attack has up to six times as much chance of emerging alive from the hospital than a person who doesn't get it. If every physically capable person could do CPR we could save at least 100,000 more lives per year. . . . That's why CPR is so important."

Drill Team of Disabled

William Judd apparently feels that where there's a wheel, there's a way.

"Anything you can do standing up, we can do sitting down," Judd said. He and partner Cappy Matlin recently danced in their wheelchairs at Long Beach City College to Michael Jackson's "Beat It."

Judd, a counselor at the college, is a member of the Totally Confident Disabled Drill Team. "We are the only drill team in the United States made up solely of people with disabilities," he said. "Some are blind, others are paraplegic or quadriplegic, have cerebral palsy or are developmentally disabled. Just about every disability is represented."

The 30-member drill team was organized for the Opening Ceremonies of the 1984 Olympic Games, but was cut from the program. Instead of disbanding, however, the group has continued to present its own brand of entertainment at local events and, last month, in Washington, D.C., for Inspire '85, an arts, recreation and sports festival for disabled persons.

The drill team marches in formation, performs figure-eights, pinwheels and other precision movements. The group also features cheerleaders and soloists who sing and dance.

"It gives us a chance to show that we can perform despite our disabilities," Judd said. "It also tells other people with disabilities that there are a lot of things they can do."

Pets Aiding Therapy

A new semester is under way at the University of San Francisco School of Nursing, and some of the students are taking a course involving animals.

"Animal Assisted Therapy," co-sponsored by the San Francisco SPCA, is an elective course that first began two years ago.

Thus far, 175 students have completed the program, which initially includes training at the society in working with animals, then permits the pupils to check out rabbits, dogs, cats and so forth.

The students take the animals to hospitals and convalescent centers, to cheer the residents. Therapy also is entailed, so to speak.

Ambassadors for Peace

Pat Montandon travels with some very important people. She has accompanied them to an official Kremlin reception. They have met Premier Zhao Ziyano in the Great Hall of the People in the People's Republic of China. They have had audiences with Pope John Paul II, Indira Gandhi, Helmut Kohl and Menachem Begin.

What's all the more impressive is that her traveling companions are all 14 years old or younger.

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