Cerebral palsy treatment programs in Grand Rapids, Michigan

Grand Rapids, Michigan has some of the most intensive cerebral palsy treatment and therapy programs in the country.  Listed below are some of the city’s cerebral palsy programs.

The Mary Free Bed Clinic

The Mary Free Bed Clinic is a rehabilitation hospital that has a program devoted to children with cerebral palsy, with the goal of helping them be as functionally independent as possible.  Areas of intense focus include mobility, self-care and communication.   Children in this program are treated by specialists from a wide variety of disciplines, and the program includes some sub-specialized programs, such as the following:

  • Advanced Management of Pediatric Spasticity (AMPS program)
  • Computerized gait analysis at the Motion Analysis Center
  • Coordination with Orthotics at the Mary Free Bed Orthotics Center
  • Coordination with specialized equipment from Mary Free Bed’s Rehab Technology Center

Other services offered by Mary Free Bed Clinic include:

  • Physical therapy evaluation and treatment
  • Occupational therapy evaluation and treatment
  • Speech/language therapy evaluation and treatment
  • Video-swallow study and feeding treatment
  • Augmentative communication evaluation and training
  • Evaluation for assistive technology
  • Neuromuscular re-education / biofeedback evaluation and treatment

The Clinic is very well known for its AMPS program, which provides comprehensive, advanced management of spasticity.  Spastic cerebral palsy is the most common type of CP.  In spastic cerebral palsy, there are complications in communication between the brain, nerves and muscles.  Normally, muscles coordinate in pairs; when one group of muscles tightens (contracts), the other group relaxes, which allows for free movement.  Muscles affected by spastic cerebral palsy do not work together in a coordinated manner; instead, the muscles that are supposed to oppose each other become active at the same time, which prevents coordinated movement.  Muscles are constantly stiff (spastic), and movements in these children are stiff and jerky, which is due to the unusually high muscles tone, called hypertonia.

The main difference in movement between children with spastic cerebral palsy and children that have a normal gait (walk) is the signature “scissor gait” in children with spastic CP.

Scissor gait is characterized by the following:

  • Knees and thighs may cross or touch while walking
  • Ankles may be turned inwards while walking
  • Hips and pelvis are often locked, as if crouching while walking
  • Feet often make contact with the ground primarily at the ball of the foot, not the heel (may look like “tip toe” walking)
  • Arms and hands may go outwards from the body to provide balance

The AMPS program provides expert care in treating children with spastic CP.  Part of the program involves evaluating the child’s spasticity.  The evaluation includes determining the child’s ability to function with daily activities as well as determining the degree and exact locations of spasticity.  In addition, specialists look for other tone or muscle movement disorders and determine the child’s underlying muscle strength and control.  The goals of the parent and child are also assessed.  Some goals the AMPS program focuses on are improved walking and ability to participate in daily activities, improved comfort and ease of care, and prevention of muscle contractures.

Specific treatments for spasticity include:

  • Selective dorsal rhizotomy (SDR)
  • Intrathecal baclofen pump
  • Multilevel orthopaedic surgeries
  • Complex Botox treatments with serial casting
  • Motion Analysis Center to target specific gait problems

The Motion Analysis Center provides a very detailed description of how the child’s body moves during walking, compared to age-appropriate, normal walking patterns.  Cutting edge technology is used to measure complex joint movements, muscle activity patterns, and forces acting on the child’s body during walking. The child’s primary physician receives a detailed report with a video of the child walking during the evaluation.  The report gives the child’s treatment team information on the impact of tone problems, muscle contractures, and bone deformities on walking, as well as recommendations for specific treatments.

The Conductive Learning Center

The Conductive Learning Center (CLC) at Aquinas College offers an intensive, functional approach between medical, educational and community professionals that focuses on making large and small tasks easy for children with cerebral palsy.  Eating, buttoning a shirt and sitting in a chair can be enormous tasks for these kids.  The CLC uses a holistic and intensive approach to help each child gain control over his or her body and accomplish tasks that had previously seemed impossible.  The CLC helps children increase their mobility, strength, problem-solving skills, confidence and self-esteem for an enhanced quality of life.

The CLC is the only institution in the U.S. that offers a POHI (physical or other health impairment) methodology teacher training program utilizing the conductive education method.  Conductive education is a type of program that views motor disorders as learning disabilities.  Thus, conductive education is task oriented and not medically based.  This type of program takes into consideration the fact that children with special needs have extra and different things they need to learn in order to accomplish certain actions.  Conductive education focuses on every aspect of functionality.  This includes communication, cognitive development, social interaction, experimentation and psychological acceptance, and how all these factors interact.  It’s not considered a treatment or therapy; it is a method of learning in which children learn to specifically and consciously do things that kids without the impairments learn through normal life experiences.  Children in the program use specialized learning strategies, and they deeply think about the process and emotionally connect to the tasks they are performing so they learn how to perform them successfully.  The central goal of conductive education is to get the child to have a spontaneous response to external stimuli, with a reliance on the child’s natural abilities, not abilities that have been modified or corrected.  Children are taught to view themselves as being active and self-reliant.

The skills focused on during conductive education include:

  • Physical functioning
  • Social interaction
  • Academic skills
  • Self-care strategies
  • Play strategies

Conductive education is aimed at encouraging:

  • Personality development
  • Independent living
  • Coordination development
  • Speech and language development
  • Sensory integration
  • Motor functioning
  • Motor control
  • Learning
  • Physical adaptation
  • Psychological acceptance
  • Emotional exploration
  • Social interaction

The Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital

The Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital in Grand Rapids has many specialists that can help children with cerebral palsy, and their orthopedics section focuses on helping these children learn to walk or walk better.  The hospital has a gait analysis program, in partnership with Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital.  It also is the first hospital in western Michigan to offer SDR, which is a surgery that can decrease spasticity in children.  In fact, SDR can permanently reduce leg muscle stiffness.  SDR involves cutting the nerve roots that are not functioning properly.

Treatment for children with cerebral palsy at this hospital involves a wide variety of specialists, such as a neurologist to perform SDR or treat seizures, or a lung doctor to help with breathing problems.  Other specialists include therapists, psychologists, educators, nurses and social workers who focus on therapies for movement, learning, speech, hearing, and social and emotional development.

Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital is west Michigan’s largest children’s hospital, and it has numerous specialists and programs to help treat cerebral palsy.  Other hospitals in Grand Rapids include:

  • Mercy Health Saint Mary’s
  • Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital
  • Mercy Health Saint Mary’s Birthing Center
  • Spartan Stores Family Childbirth Center
  • Spectrum Health
  • Spectrum Health Butterworth Hospital
  • Spectrum Health Butterworth Hospital Labor and Delivery
  • Forest View Hospital
  • Metro Health
  • Browning Claytor Health Center
  • Cherry Street Health Center
  • Heartland Health Center
  • Creston Medical Center
  • Heart of the City Health Center
  • Blogett Hospital


The attorneys at Reiter & Walsh ABC Law Centers have been helping children with cerebral palsy throughout the nation for over two decades.  Jesse Reiter, the firm’s co-founder, has been focusing on birth injury cases his entire 25+ year career, and most of Jesse’s cases involve helping children who have cerebral palsy.  Jesse helps children throughout the country, and when he takes a case, he spends a lot of time getting to know the child and family he is helping so that he can fully understand the child’s needs.  Jesse has won many awards for his advocacy of children, and he is currently recognized as being one of the best medical malpractice lawyers in America by U.S. News and World Report 2014, as well as one of the 10 Best Attorneys in Michigan by Super Lawyers magazine. Reiter & Walsh ABC Law Centers is also recognized as being one of the best law firms in the country by U.S. News and World Report 2014.

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Cerebral palsy is a difficult area of law to pursue due to the complex nature of the disorder and the medical records that support it. The nationally recognized attorneys at ABC Law Centers have decades of experience with cerebral palsy cases, and have won numerous awards.  To find out if you have a case, contact our firm to speak with an experienced cerebral palsy attorney.  We handle cases in Michigan, Texas, Ohio, Washington, D.C. and throughout the nation.  We have numerous multi-million dollar verdicts and settlements that attest to our success, and no fees are ever paid to our firm until we win your case.  Email or call us at 888-419-2229.

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