NSM Symposium Focuses on Strategies for the Future

NASHVILLE, Tenn. - The theme of this year's National Seating & Mobility (NSM) Symposium was both accurate and succinct: "The provision of mobility hasn't changed in 20-plus years... except to make it more difficult for those who need it and for those who provide it."

With that in mind, NSM's ATPs and corporate management team gathered at the Sheraton Music City Hotel over the weekend of May 20 to focus on "making certain that any benefits that the future holds are realized just a little sooner."

One of the vehicles for accomplishing their goals was the 2011 symposium, which included educational sessions, business meetings and a complex rehab technology exhibit hall.

After traveling to Nashville on Friday - a challenge in itself for some, given severe storms in certain parts of the country - the symposium began in earnest on Saturday morning, with ATPs divided into two groups to attend educational sessions.

Learning Processes

Ginny Paleg, PT, MPT, DScPT, discussed "Pediatric Seating & Positioning: An Interactive Experience." Her case studies included very young children with severe disabilities - an infant boy, for example, who according to mobility assessments is not expected to ever independently walk, but who has independently operated a power chair. Early-intervention strategies, Paleg said, should ideally include nighttime systems, since sleep is critical to child development, but is often interrupted and compromised in children that seating & mobility professionals work with.

The other morning session was led by Lois Brown, MPT, ATP, Invacare Corp., and Stephanie Tanguay, OTR, ATP, Motion Concepts, who presented "Get Up to Date on ALS: Medical Updates, Clinical Evaluation & Equipment Prescription." Among the important topics in that discussion: That so many ALS patients - about 49 percent - have some cognitive impairment that can impact emotions and social skills, but that this fact isn't always known or understood by those who work with this patient population. Brown and Tanguay also emphasized the need for a provider to know the vital capacity of the ALS patient from the very start of their working relationship, so that the provider can more accurately understand the patient's expected timeline for progression.

Working with young clients was also an important topic in the afternoon, with Stacey Woods, OTR, presenting "Pediatric Seating & Mobility: Early Intervention Matters." Jay Doherty, OTR, ATP/SMS, Quantum Rehab, spoke on "Moving in the Right Direction: Head Array Applications & Fine Programming." His presentation focused on understanding how to program head arrays to match client needs in several different scenarios... and included subsequent test driving once the head arrays had been programmed on actual power chairs.

Julie Piriano, PT, ATP/SMS, Pride Mobility Products, had unusual instructions for attendees arriving at her session: Grab a sheet of red-dot stickers on your way in. The stickers were used in Piriano's presentation, titled "Creating a Masterpiece: The Art of Transforming Evaluation to Practical Solution." The session addressed a commonly perceived "communications gap" between technology suppliers and the clinicians they work with, who may not all speak the same anatomical language during the client evaluation process. Piriano asked attendees to look at a list of formal anatomical terms familiar to physical and occupational therapists, and then place a red sticker on, for instance, their acromion processes. (Hint: Think shoulder.)

Piriano’s point: While clinicians and complex rehab technology providers are uniformly concerned about bony prominences and potential skin breakdown along their clients' acromion processes, etc., a communications gap may arise given the different backgrounds and experiences among seating & mobility team members.

The day finished up with a pair of hour-long courses by Theresa Berner, MOT, OTR/L, ATP, speaking about the benefits of power-assist for manual chairs and power-assist options, and Amy Morgan, PT, ATP, Permobil, whose presentation was called "Choosing the Most Appropriate Drive Wheel Configuration." Morgan spoke about the strengths and weaknesses of front-wheel, mid-wheel and rear-wheel drive configurations in power chairs, and helped providers to match various benefits to clients' clinical, environmental and lifestyle needs.

Discovering New Technology

Education and continuing education units are always a top priority at NSM symposiums, but as usual, there was a lot of activity beyond the classrooms, as well.

Sunday was devoted to the exhibit hall, where a variety of complex rehab technology and accessibility manufacturers showed off their latest products. After a long day of discussing seating & mobility equipment, providers and exhibitors alike had the chance to unwind with a trip to downtown Nashville and the Cadillac Ranch for a Sponsor Appreciation Party.

And as always, the annual symposium gave the ATPs at NSM (nsm-seating.com) the chance to network and chat with each other – i.e., the people who know exactly what they're going through from day to day, whether it's challenging a Medicaid program's policy of refusing to fund standers for kids under the age of 2, or finding and befriending new referral sources.

As the theme of the symposium said, "It's time to accelerate our progress and bring the future of providing mobility much closer to our current efforts."

About the Author

Laurie Watanabe is the editor of Mobility Management. She can be reached at lwatanabe@1105media.com.

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