The overall concept of Intensive Suit Therapy – TheraSuit® Method is to recruit and create new pathways to the brain at a faster pace. Research has shown that, after any brain injury, there is great potential for the brain to reorganize and repair itself to compensate for damage or loss of cells. This is accomplished by repetitive muscle strengthening and active functional movements performed in various ways. Intensive Suit Therapy targets specific muscle groups that are impacted by the effects of the injury, which affect function. Patients make significant gains over the three week program. The main focus of intensive therapy is to allow movement to become automatic and more normalized.
Intensive Suit Therapy allows for amazing results: children make significant gains in just 3 weeks. It can accelerate children’s progress in sensory processing and motor skills through strength, flexibility, endurance, balance, coordination, vestibular, and enhanced functional skill training. Children who undergo intensive therapy have acquired skills like rolling, crawling, sitting, standing and walking, which they may not have been able to achieve with traditional therapy or would have taken many months or years to achieve. Children have also demonstrated improvement with cognitive, sensory processing, social and communication skills, allowing them to better engage and focus on tasks, and interact with others.
Intensive Suit Therapy is safe when administered by a licensed and trained therapist. Our therapists have been fully trained in the TheraSuit Method.
It can help children with various disabilities (not limited to):
- Spastic Cerebral Palsy
- Hypertonia and Hypotonia
- Post-Stroke (CVA)
- Traumatic Brain Injury
- Sensory-Processing Disorder
- Autism Spectrum Disorder
- Down Syndrome and other genetic disorders
- Developmental Delay
History of the TheraSuit
The research and development of suit therapy began in Russia’s space program, which resulted in the Penguin suit, a special, lightweight suit to be worn in space flight to counteract the harmful effects of weightlessness on the body: bone density loss, altered integration of sensory and motor responses, muscle atrophy, cardiovascular deconditioning, and bodily fluid imbalance. For many years, the Penguin was used successfully with astronauts to prevent disabilities. This technology was later shared with professionals in rehabilitation. The Pediatric Institute of the Russian Academy of Science team developed the Adeli Suit for children. Their successful results opened the door to a whole new application for suit therapy as the Adeli suit became a viable component for treatment of cerebral palsy and other neurological disorders.
The TheraSuit, a modified version of the Adeli suit, was designed by the polish therapists Richard and Izabela Koscielny, who are the pioneers of intensive suit therapy in the United States and abroad.
Benefits of Intensive Suit Therapy
The TheraSuit is a breathable dynamic soft orthosis. It consists of a vest, shorts, knee pads, shoe attachments and a hat, which are fully connected by elastic bungies to realign and load the body. Functional activities such as rolling, sitting, kneeling, standing and walking are performed with the suit to facilitate mastery of skills.
The benefits of TheraSuit are as follow:
- Retrains the central nervous system
- Provides proprioceptive input (pressure from the joints, ligaments and muscles) which improves body awareness
- Improves sensory processing
- Improves muscle tone
- Improves strength through resistance
- Provides stabilization and supports weak muscles
- Improves posture
- Improves endurance
- Reduces uncontrolled movements in ataxia and athetosis
- Improves balance and coordination
- Facilitates proper movement patterns
- Improves gait pattern
Precautions and Contraindications
There are precautions and contraindications to the use of the suit, and modification to our intensive therapy session can be made to ensure safety. Therefore, we require that all of our patients receive medical clearance from their physician prior to participating in our intensive suit therapy. Caution is taken when using the suit on children with the following conditions:
- Heart conditions
- High blood pressure
- Uncontrolled seizures
- Hydrocephalus (VP shunt)
- Hip Subluxation less than 50%
- Kidney Problems
- Recent surgeries
Contraindications to the suit include:
- Hip subluxation greater than 50%
- Severe scoliosis
- Recent Selective Dorsal Rhizotomy (unless medical clearance is obtained by the neurosurgeon)
Children under the age of 2 ½ years may be able to wear the vest and shorts portion of the TheraSuit. Children who are very small and the suit is not appropriate can still benefit from the intensive component of the therapy program.
Our Intensive Therapy Program
Our intensive therapy is customized to meet the child’s individual needs. We offer 3- 4 hour sessions, 5 days per week for 3-4 weeks. The number of hours and length of program may be modified based on the child’s needs.
Children of any age can benefit from intensive therapy. We often modify our intensive program to 2 hours per day for children under the age of 1 year.
During most of our therapy sessions, the child is treated by one therapist only, except when unusual circumstances arise. A combination of therapy methods may be offered according to the child’s medical needs. This allows for fluidity and continuity of care, maximizing the child’s success. On the first day of intensive therapy, a thorough evaluation is made and a plan of care is developed according to the observations of the therapist and the goals of the child and/or parents. During the session, we utilize a wide variety of equipment as appropriate for each child. The Universal Exercise Unit, which resembles a cage, allows for strengthening of specific muscle groups, and provides suspension to facilitate functional skills and vestibular and proprioceptive input. We also use other equipment including parallel bars, stairs, ceiling track system, treadmill, and Freedom ConceptsTM tricycle. Refer to our Got Therapy? page for further details.
We encourage parent/caregiver observation and involvement during the session, because we believe that active parents/caregivers play an important role in their child’s road to success. At the last day of the intensive program, the family receives and is trained on a home exercise program with the child’s own pictures and description of each exercise or activity.
Many children combine intensive therapy with other therapies we and our partners offer (click on the links below for details):