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Yoga Helped My Daughter's Cerebral Palsy: Case Study

By: Sarah Knowles BA, MA - Updated: 9 Dec 2012 | comments*Discuss
Yoga Special Child Cerebral Palsy

When India Sutton was born in December 2003, within six hours she began having seizures. At the time nobody was aware what could be wrong with the tiny baby, who was immediately taken into intensive care. After a month, India was diagnosed with an extremely rare condition known as hypopituitarism, which means that she lacks a properly functioning pituitary gland. She also suffered hypoglycaemia at birth, which resulted in acute brain damage.

India spent weeks in an incubator, and nearly lost her life several times. After many months in the baby unit, she finally came home.

“There was a lot of complex medical care to implement, and it was often frightening,” says mum Emma, 49, who lives in Kensal Rise, London.

“I found myself dialling 999 all too often. We became regulars in A&E and well known to all the nurses there. But somehow, we got through that frightening time.”

India’s condition means that her growth and development are extremely delayed. At age six, she still has the mentality of a small baby, and is very little. “I give her 24-hour care as she can’t walk, talk, crawl, feed herself or speak, and is also visually-impaired,” says Emma.

“But while she has no speech, she laughs and is very friendly with people. She goes to a special school, and I think she enjoys it, and she loves having other children around.”

Yoga for the Special Child

Fearing that because of India's limited movement that she’d never be able to do any activities with her as other parents did with their able-bodied children, Emma searched for positive therapies that the two could do together.

Because India has cerebral palsy, her movement is limited and she finds doing things other children take for granted very difficult, or even impossible. So Emma looked for therapies that she would enjoy, and that would also increase her range of movement.

“I was fortunate enough to meet Jo Manuel, founder of the Special Yoga Centre, and started her programme of yoga for the special child, and all the activities that entails,” Emma says.

“At first, India was very passive, floppy and absent. We gradually built up the sessions and she slowly became stronger and more alive.

“The doctors said that because of her cerebral palsy and other problems that she would probably not be able to hold her head up and almost definitely would not sit up. Now not only does she hold her head up proudly but she now sits unaided and even does a wonderful cobra!”

Changed Their Lives Around

Emma says that yoga has truly changed India’s life around. “When you’re first told that your child will be severely disabled you sit in disbelief. It’s the end of the world as you know it,” she says.

“The beginning of India’s life was incredibly hard, overwhelming. It’s not the life you’d imagined and the disappointment is enormous.

“Everything you once took for granted is stripped away. There’s so much negativity. You’re constantly being told what your child will not be able to do, never what they might. But there are so many positives and we feel blessed to have this beautiful fairy child in our lives.

“I truly believe that yoga has played a vital part in her development, both physically and mentally. It makes me feel that I am doing something really positive for her. It gives us something to share that we both love."

She adds that having yoga director Jo and her magical Special Yoga Centre come into their lives has come to mean so much to her, and to India as well.

“It is an oasis of peace and tranquillity where we I come and meet other mothers in similar positions and share experiences, and where India can relax and live life to the fullest.”

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