Physically disabled, still physically fit

Becky Huffman is your typical 28 year old. She likes fashion, playing with her dogs and staying fit. She just has to be active a little differently than everyone else.

Huffman was born with cerebral palsy or CP. People with CP fall on a broad spectrum from slight speech problems to major physical handicaps. Huffman falls on the more affected end. Huffman’s primary caregiver is her mom, Carol Huffman. She said that Becky Huffman was under-developed compared to the average new born.

“Becky was born with no muscle tone… she had to develop her muscles from the inside out. We had to start with the neck and the truck and work our way our to her limps,” Carol Huffman said.

Becky Huffman has come a long way since then. She is still is a small girl, which is unusual for someone with CP, Carol Huffman said.

“A lot of the time people with CP are actually over weight because they aren’t able to be as active,” Carol Huffman said.

Becky Huffman requires 24-hour assistance and uses a power chair so the key to her fitness is the work her caregivers put in to challenge her. Becky Huffman walks smaller distances with assistance. The seemingly simple task is good exercise for her, Carol Huffman said.

“We walk her whenever possible so that takes a lot of energy for her,” Carol Huffman said.

Along with her mom, Becky Huffman has in-home assists that work with her during the week. One of these caregivers is Emily Paris. Paris is a pre-nursing major at the University of Kansas and has been working with Becky for two years now. Paris helps Becky Huffman with her exercising and being active.

“She does use her chair 90 percent of the time it’s good for her to be getting up and moving around,” Paris said.

One of Becky Huffman’s favorite exercises is swimming. Paris takes her to the Lawrence Indoor Aquatic Center a couple times a week, she said. Not only because she loves it but also because Paris understands how good for her it is.

“Swimming is really helpful for her because the water actually allows her to walk by herself without assistance from us. It’s beneficial because she gets to use her leg muscles a lot more. She likes to slash so she gets arm exercise out of it too,” Paris said.

Carol Huffman understands that swimming is a physical as well as a mental exercise for her daughter. The waters resistance gives Becky Huffman more time to react. Her physical motions are slowed and her brain is better able to keep up at that pace, carol Huffman said.

“A lot of swimming is balance but it is also cognitive- the brain and the body’s motions. Becky has not just physical challenges but she has mental challenges. It’s the coordination and letting her brain control her body,” Carol Huffman said.

Besides her coordination, another physical issue Huffman has is with maintaining her torso strength. Because she spends so much time in her chair, she is able to just lean back all the time without having to use her core muscles to support herself Paris said. Becky Huffman has another activity to help her with that.

“We like her going out and doing horseback riding because of how much it works the torso muscles,” Paris said. “It’s just a bonus that Becky absolutely loves it.”

Along with her fun activities, Becky Huffman and Paris do exercises at home as well.

“We do stability ball exercises and that’s also another thing we use to strengthen her torso. We have her sit on the ball and we hold her legs and lightly push her from side to side and have her readjust herself,” Paris said.

Just like everyone else, Becky Huffman gets sore after strenuous activity Paris said so stretching is important.

“We do stretching with her legs especially after she has done a lot of exercise the day before. Her legs tend to get very tight so she doesn’t walk as well when her legs are really tight and she doesn’t pick up her feet. It loosens her up so she actually walks better,” Paris said.

Becky Huffman is a shining example that there is no one right way to be fit. Paris said for Becky Huffman it’s about working on her specific physical needs and just having fun with it.

Carol Huffman said that her main goal for her daughter is for her to remain as active as possible.

“A lot of the time people with CP are actually over weight because they aren’t able to be as mobile,” carol Huffman said.

To maintain Becky Huffman’s active life and continue to make progress Carol Huffman said the key is mixing it up.

“We always want to challenge her to do new things, try new activities,” Carol Huffman said. “If that wasn’t our attitude she couldn’t be as active as she is now.”

Becky Huffman, a 28-year-old Lawrence resident, loves being active. Huffman has cerebral palsy, which affected her brain and muscle development at birth. She generally uses a power chair so she needs activities to get her up and moving. Emily Paris, a pre-nursing major at the University of Kansas, works with Huffman and helps her get her exercise in. Paris takes Huffman to the Lawrence Indoor Aquatic Center a couple times a week. Swimming is one of Huffman’s favorite activities and it is extremely beneficial for her. The water allows her to work muscles that she would normally need assistance to use.


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