One Boy's 'life-changing' Therapy at MMI (NE UCEDD/LEND)

April 29, 2019

Caption: Wyatt Fisher gets ready to rock the treadmill as Munroe-Meyer Institute physical therapist Marne Iwand checks the position of his feet.
Caption: Wyatt Fisher gets ready to rock the treadmill as Munroe-Meyer Institute physical therapist Marne Iwand checks the position of his feet.

Wyatt Fisher is in the mood to jump.

The 6-year-old first-grader is wearing a safety harness with an extremely springy cord attached to the ceiling of the Munroe-Meyer Institute's Sensorimotor Learning Lab. Wyatt and his mom have come all the way from Ravenna, Neb. -- 152 miles west of Omaha -- for an intense episode of care from the physical therapists on staff at MMI.

The harness allows Wyatt, who has cerebral palsy, to more easily stand upright and move his feet to walk -- but the give of the springy appliance also makes it excellent for jumping.

"He's having a great time, and I'm seeing huge improvements in the things he can do," said Jodie Fisher, Wyatt's mom.

Wyatt has come to MMI after receiving a selective dorsal rhizotomy, which involved cutting nerves in his spine to reduce high muscle tone (spasticity) in his legs. Wyatt had to lay flat for three days afterward, and after intensive inpatient rehabilitation at Gillette Children's Specialty Healthcare in Minneapolis, his parents brought him to MMI for outpatient habilitation.

Today, Wyatt is working with Brad Corr, D.P.T., and Marne Iwand, to explore fun movements and learn how to use his legs in a new way. The harness and the bungee cords (purchased through a donation from the Lindsay Family Foundation) allow Wyatt to explore new experiences and find new solutions for moving his body.

"Our experience has been phenomenal," Fisher said. "Marne is great at coming up with ideas to challenge him, but he doesn't know he's being challenged."

One example: Using a T-ball stand to help Wyatt build his core strength and balance. T-ball, a children's basketball hoop and the springy harness figure largely into Wyatt's therapy, which looks a lot like play as he, Iwand and Dr. Corr laugh together.

"He is all boy," his mother said. "If it has wheels, or you give him a ball, or fixing things . . . he's all boy."
The Fishers are staying in a hotel from February through April to get services at MMI for Wyatt.

MMI serves children with cerebral palsy through the Omaha Public Schools system, providing school-based and early intervention programs. The institute also provides "short burst" intensive mobility training for children, like Wyatt, who are recovering from surgery.

Max Kurz, Ph.D., who directs the Sensorimotor Learning Lab, said, "The research environment at MMI is very unique because we work side-by-side with the clinician and the family to find better ways to improve the function and fitness of children with cerebral palsy. This allows for us to rapidly identify the key ingredients for expanding the child's ability to participate in fun and engaging activities with their family and friends. Wyatt's treatment outcomes exemplify these principles."

"Back home, they don't have places like this that specialize in children who have special needs," Fisher said. "At MMI, they understand what he can do and can't do, so they can tailor the therapy to him."
After passing a basketball with Dr. Corr and shooting hoops, Wyatt moves to the treadmill where, still attached to the harness, he carefully moves his feet one in front of the other while Iwand cheers him on.
"You go, Wyatt!" she yells. Mom Jodie dials up one of Wyatt's favorite songs, "Swing Batter Swing" by Trace Atkins, as he begins moving so well on the treadmill that Dr. Corr exclaims in surprise.

"Wyatt never crawled, he frog-hopped," Fisher said. "He could never move his legs reciprocally. Now he can move them reciprocally -- I've actually seen him ride a bike, which is something he could have never done before. It's life-changing to him."

With March being Cerebral Palsy Awareness Month and March 25 Cerebral Palsy Awareness Day, Fisher shared this information she wants people to be aware of about her son, Wyatt:
"Don't assume that he can't do things. He can do them -- they may just be a little different than how you and I do it. His disability doesn't define him."