Helping someone stand, assisting someone with walking, or teaching an individual how to regain strength in their body movements is among the many things the staff at the Center of Achievement for the Physically Disabled and the Abbott and Linda Brown Western Center for Adaptive Aquatic Therapy do.
Located on the CSUN campus, both centers are a part of the Kinesiology Department. It is an academic field that provides a detailed understanding of the movement of the human body in relation to sports, dance, and exercise.
In 1971 the Center of Achievement opened its doors and began helping physically disabled clients through land-based, therapeutic exercise programs. In the spring of 2003, the Abbott and Linda Brown Center, an extension of the Center of Achievement, began operation in a 19,000 square foot indoor aquatic facility.
The Brown Center is the only wide-ranging facility of its kind in the western United States, currently serving about 350 individuals.
Mai Narasaki, Interim Aquatic Director and lecturer for the Kinesiology Department, describes the Brown Center as a ‘Facility that provides individualized exercise programs for people with disabilities.’
Adaptive aquatic therapy allows greater freedom of movement that improves fitness, range of motion, and cardiovascular and muscular strength.
The Brown Center’s clientele are all referred by hospitals such as Kaiser Permanente or Northridge Hospital.
There is no public advertising for the center and all medical expenses come out of the individual’s own pocket with assisted transportation to and from the Brown Center.
The staff consists of four administrative staff members, two faculty advisers, a team of CSUN undergraduate Kinesiology majors and graduate students. The Brown Center features four indoor treatment specific pools which are each utilized to care for clients of all ages and all physical disabilities.
Donal McGraw, a 28-year-old graduate student has been working at the Brown Center for one year. He helps evaluate clientele to create exercise programs specific to their needs.
Students in the Kinesiology Department who take 311 Adapted Therapeutic Exercise: Principles and Applications or 313 Adaptive Therapy Aquatics, attend regular class in lecture halls in addition to taking a lab which involves working one day a week at a pool in the Brown Center. Courses such as these also involve lectures on the concepts of water safety, physics of aquatic activity and specific movement skills.
Designed to introduce principles and applications in adapted therapeutic exercise, students gain hands-on experience in working with individuals and assisting clients with various physical disabilities under clinical supervision at the Center of Achievement.
Both staff members and students who work at the Brown Center agree that the experience they gain from there job is unlike any other.
‘This is a special place because many things we do in our daily lives that we take for granted are limited for other people. Working here has widened my vision in seeing different possibilities to help people with different needs,’ said Narasaki.
McGraw takes pride in knowing that every time he works with an individual, pushing them to do something that they feel they cannot do, he is helping make their daily life activities better.
‘ ‘Both the staff and the clientele all have the same vision; we all really enjoy and believe in what we do. We’re here all day long because this is a career that is very personal; it creates very close bonds. If you finish with this degree there are a lot of areas to go in to and the people you work with are no longer just clients, you build friendship with them,’ said McGraw.