My walking program has been built upon collaboration. Collaboration is a dynamic, creative, and interconnected process. From the beginning, I have combined approaches from a wide range of health, medical, rehabilitation, and fitness disciplines. I have used methods from physical therapy, yoga, dance, and functional movement to support my overall fitness and walking efforts.
When I work with someone new, I know that I am likely one of their first clients with Spastic Cerebral Palsy, I am “geared up” to educate and dispel any potential misconceptions a professional might have about my disability. Successful collaboration begins when I see a professional who is willing to engage in what may be unfamiliar. I know the foundations of collaboration are present when I see a professional actively listening and planning. There is agreement about short-term and long-term goals.
My disability may present a new and exciting challenge, but generally, professionals who work with me want me to achieve success. The professional is confident that they can support me. They look for new and innovative ways to help me improve existing skills or to develop new ones. They engage in active problem-solving which leads to targeted strategies to improve my strength, flexibility, and other aspects of mobility.
The professionals I have worked with over many years understand the principles of person-centered support and care. Person centered care is based on the premise that each individual is unique, and that all care and programming should be based on each person’s strengths, interests, needs, and choices. [i]
Principles of person-centered care applied to my program include:
– Treating people with dignity and respect,
– Offering coordinated and personalized support, and
– Supporting people to recognize and develop their own strengths and abilities.
When I engage any professional to become a member of my medical, health, or fitness team, the initial step is to establish a rapport and build the groundwork for interdisciplinary collaboration. I define my goals as a client, share examples of exercises that have shown results, and share information that will demonstrate my current level of ability, and what I am working toward. I emphasize why my walking goals are so important. My mobility is the vital key that allows me to work, play, and navigate in my community.
-Interdisciplinary collaboration is an academic term which defines a process of how different professionals work together and forge agreements. This reference describes my experience, “Interdisciplinary collaboration crosses the boundaries of disciplines and professions and forms a team with an agenda of practical problem-solving. The established team has a mutual interest of creating new knowledge.” [ii]
-Effective interdisciplinary collaboration requires developing a common vocabulary and encouraging a relationship that results in active problem-solving between the client and professional.
I have learned how to engage all the professionals I work with in verbal problem-solving. I ask several questions during my exercise sessions or my (walking) training sessions. Examples of questions include: “What should happen during this exercise?” “What should I feel?” “Why?” “Where on my leg should I be feeling the effect of the exercise?”
The professionals working with me in turn have learned how to prompt me about where and when to expect a specific physical response. The dialogue and problem-solving helps me to bridge gaps that happen when typical approaches do not quite work out as expected — often due to spasticity, muscle fatigue, or other factors related to my disability.
-I also repeatedly share the vision I have about walking improvements. I share effective methods that have shown positive results. I similarly share what has not worked over time.
At its core, the unique program and model I have developed over twelve years, came out of the need to find personalized solutions that would not only preserve my mobility but improve it. It has brought together professionals from many backgrounds to build upon my goals, interests, and strengths.
When person-centered care and interdisciplinary collaboration are effectively applied, it promotes the use of community settings versus segregated settings. [iii] It “blends and merges expertise and knowledge from different disciplines to maximize creativity when addressing complex problems or difficulties.” [iv]
In my case, the principles of person-centered care and interdisciplinary collaboration have created a framework for achievement of my goals. The principles have developed lasting relationships, fostered ongoing teamwork, and developed a shared goal and vision for Wiley’s Walk.
[i] Fazio, Sam. “The Individual Is the Core-And Key-To Person-Centered Care.” Generations. American Society of Aging. 2013.
[ii] Derry, S. J., Schunn, C. D., & Gernsbacher, M. A. (Eds.). (2005). Interdisciplinary Collaboration: An Emerging Cognitive Science. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.
[iii] Stanhope, V., Tondora, J., Davidson, L., Choy-Brown, M., & Marcus, S. C. (2015). Person-centered care planning and service engagement: a study protocol for a randomized controlled trial. Trials, 16(1).
[iv] Bronstein, L. R. (2003). A model for interdisciplinary collaboration. Social Work, 48(3), 297+.
Excerpts of this article were originally published in the “Endless CapABILITIES Blog”, and National Center on Health, Physical Activity and Disability, sponsored by The National Center on Health, Physical Activity and Disability (www.nchpad.org). NCHPAD is part of the UAB/Lakeshore Research Collaborative and supported by Grant/Cooperative Agreement Number U59DD000906 from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).