The Arsenal Foundation

Helping children walk tall

14 Richard Cloudesley School
Lead physio Clare is on hand to help – and she can see the difference in her students’ posture after 15 minutes using the Innowalk

The Arsenal Foundation has helped Richard Cloudesley School buy an Innowalk, a device that helps children with special needs including cerebral palsy walk in an upright position. Assistant head teacher Caroline Brown and physiotherapy team lead Clare Grodon tell us how the machine has helped

Caroline Brown: Richard Cloudesley is a school for more than 80 pupils aged from two to 19 years with physical disabilities and additional sensory needs. I have worked at the school for over 35 years in many roles. 

Clare Grodon: We have a team of four physiotherapists who support the students with their physical needs both in school and in their homes in Islington. This ranges from helping with their equipment and physio programmes to liaising with other hospitals and centres to get the best possible care for them. We have fantastic facilities including a hydrotherapy pool and trampoline which the children love. I have worked for Whittington Health NHS Trust for over ten years and have been based at Richard Cloudesley for around seven years. 

CB: Back in 2018 Clare secured a trial with the Innowalk, and several pupils with very different needs all got something from it. We knew there was potential but when we heard that each machine would cost over £30,000 Clare wanted to ensure we had clinical reasoning and research for spending such a vast amount of money. 

The company agreed to us piloting two machines in a busy school environment, which enabled Clare to set up a clinical research study. The study was completed last October and Clare is in the process of having her research published to highlight the changes the Innowalk can make to a population of students with cerebral palsy.

CG: The Innowalk supports the students into a position of weight-bearing that they can tolerate, and then the motor supports them to move their legs in a reciprocal pattern close to gait. This has been revolutionary for some of our students, who have never been able to experience that type of movement before. It has different adjuncts such as arm handles which makes it look more like a cross trainer. My role has been to introduce the Innowalk into the school, run the clinical study, support with the training and assess the students for using the equipment and support them if any problems arise. 

For some students it really helped them to improve their posture after using it for a block of six weeks. Other students saw a change in their pain levels, finding that they were experiencing less discomfort after use. Other examples include helping with improving sleep, accessing other equipment and helping moving and handling of students.  

CB: The Innowalk has definitely helped several pupils with their focus and attention, and pupils definitely enjoy the challenge of walking over 2km in a 30-minute session.

The grant from The Arsenal Foundation was put towards the wider fundraising challenge. Many of our pupils are Arsenal fans and through other links access the sensory space at Emirates Stadium and attend Arsenal games. There is a friendly Spurs/Arsenal rivalry between many secondary pupils and staff, and the Arsenal fans were highly delighted when the Foundation came up trumps! 

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