A case study from Tŷ Aberdafen demonstrating the gains possible with intensive rehabilitation a number of years after brain injury, including an example of a specific activity-based intervention.

Matthew was admitted to Tŷ Aberdafen in April 2014. He had sustained a brain injury 2010 in a motorbike accident. In addition to his brain injury Matthew had multiple physical injuries and weakness and spasms in his limbs. Matthew was asphasic (meaning he had problems with using language correctly) and was unable to swallow food or drink. He also demonstrated cognitive impairments and behavioural issues.

The team at Tŷ Aberdafen designed a multi-discipline rehabilitation programme to address these issues. The programme included neurobehavioural therapy, speech and language therapy and physiotherapy. In addition, the team at Tŷ Aberdafen have also been supporting Matthew in attending specialist sit-skiing sessions at the local ski slope with Disability Ski Group, Ski4allWales (@ski4allwales).

service user and support worker in Ty Aberdafen

The weekly ski-ing sessions were added to Matthew’s programme to improve community integration and ultimately more independence and to:

  • Improve opportunities for engaging social activity that Matthew would find interesting and stimulating
  • Increase motivation – particularly by finding activities to meet Matthew’s “need for speed” without putting him at risk
  • Work on core stability and strength

Below are examples of how Matthew’s ski sessions are contributing to key areas of focus within his broader rehabilitation programme:

Area of focus

  • Core stability, head control and balance

How sit-skiing specifically addresses this

  • Matthew is encouraged to lean to the side and control his head position whilst his instructor guides them down the slope.

  • As sessions have progressed it has become evident that Matthew has started to compensate for the bumps in the slope, and works hard to keep his head control and body centred.

  • Managing frustration levels and improve mood
  • By attending weekly, Matthew has a regular and safe means of fulfilling his need for speed.

  • Matthew looks forward to the sessions and this helps with his motivation.

  • In addition, the endorphins released during the activity also help with lifting Matthew’s mood and reduce levels of frustration.
  • Provide a social interaction where he could interact with his peers and family
  • The skiing sessions are a chance for Matthew to interact with a wider social circle, mixing with other skiers in the Ski4allWales group sessions.

Matthew continues to attend skiing sessions once a week. In the future, there are plans for Matthew’s young son to be invited so that they can enjoy this activity together. Matthew continues to work with the team at Ty Aberdafen towards his longer-term goal of being able to live independently with regular access to family and a fulfilling social life.