An Interview with Ester Fink, The Canadian MEDEK Centre™

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What issues do parents most often come to you with?  What is your area of specialty?
My area of expertise is with infants and young children with movement disorders.  I also see children with delayed motor milestones and parents who are concerned that there is a problem but are unable to identify it.

Parents will often tell me that they have an older child and they suspect that this baby is developing different. The infant may have had a rough beginning. The baby could have been born prematurely, or the umbilical cord may have been wrapped around his/her neck at birth or may have other issues.

These children may show “soft signs”.  These soft signs can be that they: dislike being on their tummies, cannot focus, have difficulty tracking a moving object, or have feeding issues.

I am not trying to scare anyone. Not every baby with a feeding issue has a neurological deficit!  I think because of my expertise, I am competent at recognizing these subtle signs and can tell the parents, “your child looks pretty good in all areas of development but maybe a little bit of exercise will help him or her to achieve the expected motor milestones.”  There are cases where a child shows more profound deficits and I refer them to their pediatrician or a neurologist for further assessment.

Do you use formal tests/assessments?
Yes.  We have different assessments for babies and children according to the diagnoses and the age of the child.

What cases are the most difficult to work with?
The hardest situation is when I put all my energy into working with a child and nothing happens.  These children have more profound brain anomalies.  Their nervous systems do not respond to the stimulation that the therapy provides.  Children who have uncontrolled seizures are also hard to work with.  With these difficult cases, I usually say to the parent that I will try a specific and intensive program for 6 to 8 weeks.  After this period we should see some changes

How many children have you helped through the years and can you tell some of their stories?
I have worked with thousands of children.  I recall one particular case who came to me from Israel.  He had cerebral palsy and was walking with the aid of a walker.  The parents were told that he would never walk without an assistive device. After I worked with him, he was able to play soccer without any aids at all.  I will never forget his Bar Mitzvah.  All of the family members and friends were sitting in the social hall when he proudly walked in on his own.  It was definitely a memorable moment.

I am currently seeing a child that has gone through therapy with poor results.  His community physiotherapist suggested that I see this child with the hope that the child might gain the ability to walk.  When I first saw him at the clinic he was not able to touch the ground with his feet or move on his own at all.  Following treatment, he can now move, look into his dresser drawers, lean on a table and walk with somebody holding his hand.

In another case, friends of the parents of a child I treated, were so moved by the child’s progress that they donated money for research to help children with disabilities.

I can go on and on.  There are books written about the process by parents here and abroad.   They write not only about the progress their child made but also about how it contributed to the wellness of their families.

You talked about some of your favourite stories from the cases you worked on.  Can you think of another one?
Zareinu Educational Centre is a school and treatment centre for children with a wide range of physical and developmental challenges.  At Zareinu, I treated a child with severe low muscle tone.  We call it “Raggedy Ann Doll Syndrome”.  This child literally could not hold anything in his hands and could not put his lips together.  When he came to me with his mother for the first time he was nine months old.  His referring therapist at the Toronto’s Hospital for Sick Children said to me, “this child will not walk even with intensive therapy”  He was a difficult case because he used to cry a lot and vomit when he would get anxious and stressed.  By the age of four, he showed me how he can dance.  A child who could have been sitting in a wheelchair is now walking and living an active life.

Not everybody will become an independent walker. But, we strive to get children as mobile and independent as possible.

What will motivate a parent to come to your clinic?
Usually it is by referral from someone who had similar difficulties with their own child and also from pediatricians and therapists who have heard about my work and my success.

 

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