New clinic helps youth with disabilities transition to adulthood

    TORONTO, June 18 /CNW/ - Canada's leading children's and adult
rehabilitation hospitals have joined forces to run a one-of-a-kind clinic that
helps youth with disabilities better navigate adulthood.
    Bloorview Kids Rehab and Toronto Rehab have opened the LIFEspan clinic -
a clinic designed to fill gaps in adult services that put youth with
disabilities at risk of developing preventable, secondary health conditions
when they graduate from children's services.
    "Traditionally they fell through the cracks at age 18," says Helen Healy,
Director of the Life Skills and Wellness Institute at Bloorview Kids Rehab.
    The LIFEspan clinic - located at Toronto Rehab - offers a single point of
access for youth to receive comprehensive services from a rehabilitation team
that includes a nurse practitioner, a physiatrist, occupational, physical and
speech therapists, and a social worker.
    Due to medical advances, children born with disabilities are living
longer, but the co-ordinated medical, therapy and life-skills services they
get in the pediatric system are missing in adult services. The number of
children with disabilities who will be entering adulthood in the next five
years is considerable: At Bloorview Kids Rehab alone, more than 1,200 clients
will be turning 18 in the next three years.
    Dolly Menna-Dack, who grew up with juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, hit
this wall when she needed surgery and inpatient rehabilitation at age 18.
"It's really frightening not having anywhere to go," Dolly says. "The adult
system is very fragmented. It was a struggle to look for the specialized care
I needed. Adult service providers were not prepared for me and I wasn't
prepared for their lack of understanding."
    Dolly - then an adult - ended up having her surgery and rehab in
children's facilities. Dolly was lucky. "Other youth go without the care they
need, compromising their health and developing secondary conditions that lead
to costly hospitalizations," Healy says.
    "The LIFEspan service recognizes that youth with childhood disabilities
need specialized, ongoing care throughout life, and we are collaborating with
family doctors in the community to build expertise in childhood-onset
disabilities," says Dr. Mark Bayley, LIFEspan physiatrist and Medical
Director, Neuro Rehabilitation Program at Toronto Rehab.
    Twenty year-old Crystal Chin was born with cerebral palsy, a neurological
disorder, and uses a walker because of partial paralysis on one side of her
body. Crystal has other health concerns, including chronic pain, which means
she needs specialized care which, up until now, only the pediatric rehab
system could deliver.
    "The life skills support provided by the service has made me feel less
intimidated by life," Crystal says. "It encourages me to participate in life
as an adult."
    By increasing the quality of primary care and by ensuring that patients
receive coordinated and comprehensive long-term care, the LIFEspan clinic's
innovative approach will improve the efficiency of the health care system.
    "By providing the right care at the right time, future savings from the
LIFEspan service are estimated at $3.7 million annually five years into the
program," Dr. Bayley says.
    The LIFEspan service began in December 2006 as a demonstration project
for individuals with cerebral palsy and acquired brain injury. Plans are in
the works to expand the service in the near future to youth with spina bifida,
spinal cord injury, muscular dystrophies, and musculoskeletal disabilities.
    Preparing children with disabilities for adulthood has become a
recognized clinical and research field as a growing number of countries look
for ways to address the challenges. Bloorview just hosted its fourth
international conference on transitions in Toronto, drawing about 250
attendees from seven countries. Many were eager to adopt the LIFEspan model.

    Bloorview Kids Rehab is Canada's largest children's rehabilitation
hospital. For over a century, we've pioneered treatments, technologies,
therapies and real-world programs that give children with disabilities the
tools to participate fully in life. Visit

    Toronto Rehabilitation Institute (Toronto Rehab) is at the forefront of
one of the most important and emerging frontiers in health care today -
rehabilitation science. Toronto Rehab is one of Canada's leading academic
rehabilitation science centres providing adult rehabilitation services,
complex continuing care, and long-term care. More information is available at:

For further information:

For further information: Louise Kinross, Communications Manager,
Bloorview Kids Rehab, (416) 424-3866; Carolyn Lovas, Media Relations
Specialist, Toronto Rehab, (416) 597-3422, ext. 3837

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