Cerebellar Ataxia

The Hope Center For Exceptional Needs, Riyadh

I recently joined  HOPE For Exceptional Needs,  the Facebook page for parents and staff of  The Hope Center  special needs facility in Saudi Arabia that is unique in that it accepts students regardless of race, religion, gender, national origin, or type of disability.   

In 2003, after only four years of operation,  the Ministry of Social Affairs  identified HOPE as one of the top fourteen “standardized” schools for the disabled in the Kingdom.

I posted links to helpful information on their FB page.  In return, I received effusive thanks and requests from several parents and teachers for basic advice about autism and other handicapping conditions.  I was able to answer some of their questions.  But then I was asked for information on how to handle learning and writing problems related to Cerebellar Ataxia.  I was not familiar with this condition so I did some homework   (See my post on Cerebellar ataxia) and arrived at the following conclusions:

  1. Cerebellar Ataxia is too large and complicated a topic to be addressed on a FB page
  2. There are lots more topics like this that educators must deal with
  3. Is I wanted to help people at the Hope Center, I was going to need help… lots of it!

I had already met with Kathleen Posa, principal of  PS177Q in NYC to discuss a “sister” school arrangement with The Hope Center through which teachers and related service providers would voluntarily answer questions of a practical nature posed.   I am grateful to Principal Posa for supporting the idea.  But, after I was hit with the Cerebellar Ataxia question, I realized the problem was larger than I first thought.  PS177 is a premier, public special education school in NYC.  Fully half of our 550 students are on the Spectrum.  But, while my school could address issues related to autism, there would be many questions on other handicapping conditions.  Obviously, sister schooling would not be entirely satisfactory.

I turned to Kathleen Tehrani and Stephen Shore for advice.   Coincidently, they were discussing the same issue with advocates Fazli Azeem and Lars Perner but within the larger context of a peer-sharing platform for all Southeast Asia.  While everyone agrees there exists an important and largely unfulfilled need for practical advice throughout the world, the question remains as to how best to serve this need.

I am giving it a shot.  I have set up “Sharing with Hope”, a  sub-group of  my LinkedIn group  as a platform for members to share their knowledge and experience with the folks at the Hope Center.  The mechanism for peer-sharing  remains to be worked out.  What we learn from this effort will help in development of a larger platform supporting multiple schools in the Middle East and South East Asia.

Those who would like to participate in our little mentoring experiment are invited to request membership in this new subgroup where you can share your knowledge and experience.

Read the round table discussion


I have recently joined HOPE For Exceptional Needs, a Facebook page for parents and staff of The Hope Center, a model special needs facility in Saudi Arabia.   The Hope Center is unique in that it accepts students regardless of race, religion, gender, national origin, or the number of disabilities a student has.   In 2003, only four years after start of operation,  the Ministry of Social Affairs named HOPE as one of the top 14 “standardized” schools for the disabled in the Kingdom.

HOPE serves children with many different special needs.  Recently I was asked by teachers for information on how to handle learning & writing problems related to Cerebellar Ataxia.  I am not familiar with this condition.  So I did some homework.

  • Young children are most commonly diagnosed with acute cerebellar ataxia following a viral infection while current and chronic cerebellar ataxia may occur from stroke, migraines, multiple sclerosis, brain tumors, seizures and other genetic, acute or autoimmune diseases.
  • Symptoms of cerebellar ataxia may include uncoordinated movements in the limbs, clumsiness, unsteadiness, abnormal eye movements and visual complaints.

Obviously, this is a debilitating condition for young learners.  The good news is that it is treatable and correctable.  But teachers and therapists will need guidance in how to apply our knowledge therapeutically.  Therefore, I am contemplating the creating a HELP BLOG specifically to address such questions.   While I wish the blog could be a source for definitive resources, it will more likely be a simple, starting point for serious research, serving to point readers in the right direction.

This blog post will be a test of this idea.  I hope you find this information to be helpful.



LINK:       Cerebellar Signs; a Patient Plus article.

PatientPlus articles are written for doctors and so the language can be technical, however some people find that they add depth to the patient information leaflets. You may find the abbreviations record helpful.


LINK:       Treating ataxia

Ataxia UK is the UK’s leading charity for people living with ataxia and provides information about specific ataxia services. It is also a useful resource for people who have just received a diagnosis of ataxia.

LINK:     Physiotherapeutic Exercises For Cerebellar Ataxia 

The cerebellum controls balance and coordination. It does not function properly during cerebellar ataxia. Young children are most commonly diagnosed with acute cerebellar ataxia following a viral infection. Current and chronic cerebellar ataxia may occur from stroke, migraines, multiple sclerosis, brain tumors, seizures and other genetic, acute or autoimmune diseases.

Courtesy |



LINK:         A Case-Study In Re-Teaching A Traumatically Brain Injured Child Handwriting Skills

Richard M. Kubina Jr., Diane Aho, Michael P. Mozzoni, and Paul Malanga

Abstract: The case study details the efforts to re-teach handwriting skills to a child with traumatic brain injury. The intervention focused on practicing handwriting tool, or foundational, skills. The case study took place during occupational therapy while the child attended out-patient sessions at a post acute rehabilitation center.  Positive results accompanied the intervention and are discussed. After the intervention, it was clear that the form of Byron’s writing vastly improved. In effect, the practice of tools skills of handwriting was accompanied by a doubling in the total amount of words in the see/copy channel, as well as improved legibility in everyday handwriting, a skill not directly addressed. Another positive effect occurred with Byron’s pencil grasp…… After the study, Byron had normal grasp prehension, thumb opposing two remaining digits.

Journal Of Precisions Teaching and Celeration 1998.XV. 32-40 NUMBER 2


LINK:     Vestibuar Rehabilitation Therapy (VRT)

VRT can also improve impairments in executive, visual-spatial, and linguistic abilities, as well as spatial cognition, language and emotional regulation of behaviour, emotional control, as well as reading and writing skills.

….. and are based on Cawthorne-Cooksey Exercises and a combination of adaptation, substitution, and habituation exercises.

(VRT) has been shown to be effective for both adults and children, with vestibular disorders, both peripheral  and central.”


LINK:      Watch Holly’s Story