As the first day of the new school year arrives, all pupils are once again allowed to return to school. For many physically disabled children who have been shielding for the best part of six months, this is the first time they’ve entered the school environment (and one of the first time they’ve left their homes) since March. For these children, coronavirus has had significant implications on their movement skills and for some, negative impacts on their health. We spoke to education and physiotherapy professionals across the UK who shared their thoughts on why the MOVE Programme is vital to overcome the impact of Covid-19, helping children recover, and continue improving, their mobility skills.  

Regaining lost movement skills 

We have heard many stories of disabled children who have lost valuable movement skills over lockdown, which will have a detrimental effect on their overall physical health. Just as the MOVE Programme enables disabled children to gain new movement skills, it will also be absolutely instrumental at this time to help them regain those lost skills. 

We heard from Caroline Havard, Neuro Physiotherapist based in South Wales: “The usual school routine has stopped for all children over the past few months, but for pupils who need postural management and a physical activity programme, that has had wider implicationsSome children will not have had access to the equipment needed to practise movement skills, which has resulted in them losing skills over lockdown. The MOVE Programme will be vital in helping them to regain these before it is too late.”  

Lisa Parascandolo, a Class Teacher at Willow Dene School in London agreed. MOVE will be so important in schools going forwards as a lot of our children and families have been shielding for many months, some with little to no outside input or assistance from services. Children, parents and class teams need to be reminded of what they can do and what their movement potential is, so they continue to build, not lose, their skills.  

Providing support where physiotherapy input is limited 

Coming back to school under social distancing measures with restrictions on external visitors means face to face physiotherapy input remains a challenge. This is where the MOVE Programme can bridge a gap in provision, as Simon Wright, Senior Teacher at Cherry Garden School in London, details:

We will most likely be without face to face physiotherapy input for at least the first term, which is challenging enough as it is before considering that we will have a new cohort of MOVE users who are relatively unfamiliar to us at this stage, given the difficulties around transitions before summer. However, as a high number of our staff are MOVE trained, our education staff have the necessary knowledge and expertise to ensure motivating movement opportunities are provided throughout the child’s school day. Because of this, I have no doubt that these children will make excellent progress, even without the usual forms of support from the wider MOVE team.”

Caroline Havard also highlighted the strain on physiotherapy teams at the moment: “Physios may have reduced capacity to offer schools, especially if there is a second wave and teams get redeployed back to the frontline again. While physiotherapists are always a vital part of the MOVE team, enabling a school setting to provide mobility support would give it some resilience against this situation.” 

Katie Chapman, Lead Professional for Pupils with PMLD and Physical Disabilities at Watergate School in London, added: If physios are even able to come on site at all, they will have to be in full PPE, which may be confusing and even scary for the children. This is likely to impact on the effectiveness of direct physiotherapy input for the children that need it most. Having school staff who are MOVE trained and able to provide movement opportunities where physios currently can’t will help to make sure children continue to make progress with their mobility skills”. 

Supporting families to develop skills at home 

While the loss of skills is a harsh reality that the MOVE Programme will help to alleviate, the programme has also enabled children to continue building skills through lockdown.  

Because MOVE involves the whole team around the child, families have been able to continue their child’s access to movement opportunities throughout lockdown, even without specialist equipment, as mentioned by Caroline Havard: “Some families have been able to make the most of lockdown. There are children who have made progress and thrived practicing MOVE at home. For example, one little girl I work with has progressed with her toilet training.”  

Katie Chapman also shared positive success stories: “MOVE has been vital for us as it has helped young people and their families to have the skills, motivation and confidence to maintain and improve their physical independence at home. They are also more equipped to recognise small steps of progress and as a result can have more productive conversations with therapists and school staff who cannot see the children physically. I was astounded by the amazing head control I saw from one of my pupils recently! 

In the aftermath of lockdown and the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, the MOVE Programme provides a structured framework for functional skills development that is used by parents, education staff and therapy professionals alike. This makes it a vital tool that can be used to bridge therapy gaps and ensure that profoundly disabled children continue to reach their full movement potential during this challenging time. 

Interested in finding out more?  Contact us for more information or to join an upcoming webinar.