website statistics

Dynamic Core for Kids

writing-sliderShelley Mannell, BScPT, Julie Wiebe, BSc, MPT

The following is a summary of a more formal case study (submitted for a future publication) of the response of a 12-year-old boy, Michael (name changed for privacy), had to the Dynamic Core for Kids approach. Co-created with Shelley Mannell, this pediatric application of the core program developed for adults, integrates the pelvic floor and diaphragm into core rehabilitation and fitness programs. These photos actually capture his progress better than our words! His response was exciting and we are seeing a similar response in kids and adults with a variety of diagnoses.

Case Study of a 12 year old male with Cerebral Palsy:

Initial Presentation:

Michael had a stroke at birth that primarily impacted his right arm and leg, causing them to be weak and tight (spastic). His trunk was very weak and he experienced compensatory left-sided arm and leg deficits as well. The resulting postural weakness (see photos below) made it difficult for him to sit still for longer than 10 minutes. In addition, he had trouble keeping his eyes at the horizon resulting in an elevated gaze. This made social eye contact, and visual demands of reading the chalkboard at school challenging. Michael had difficulty maintaining balance when moving from sitting to standing and had falls due to poor balance in walking. His primary resource for creating stability at his center for seated and standing postures and to help with movements was to hold his breath.


We utilized a holistic approach to restore his core function. The adult physical therapy literature has demonstrated that the components of the inner core (Diaphragm, Transversus Abdominis, Pelvic Floor, and Multifidus) all become more active automatically in a neutral alignment of the pelvis and the ribcage. Thus, we initially focused on creating a core-optimizing alignment through the use of pillows, wedges and towels. In these core-optimizing positions, we helped Michael access his inner-core components through the use of blow toys to stimulate his diaphragm. The diaphragm has been shown to elicit a response for the other elements of the core. Michael was encouraged to use the mantra “Blow before you go” to elicit core support for his posture before each repetition of his therapeutic activities, each transitional movement, and as he participated in play. Following this training approach, his core strengthened and began to hold his alignment without the need of additional propping from seating aides. The improved alignment improved the activation of his core during daily activity, school work, and play. (Michael does use a wedge at school to improve his tolerance for full day activity).


\Michael made a significant improvement in maintaining a more neutral postural alignment both with and without seating support. Michael now sits independently for school work without time limitations. Improved posture also resulted in a significant change in his eye gaze positioning, which has the potential to positively impact both social interaction and school work success. His seated alignment facilitates his ability to rise from sitting to standing without using his arms. Similar development is evident in the standing photos. His parents noted that Michael displayed improved standing balance.
Treatment was provided over a series of weekly 1 hour sessions for 2 months to address sitting posture.

Treatment was subsequently provided for another series of weekly 1 hour sessions for 2 months to address standing posture.


This case illustrates the possibilities for improved postural control and movement capacity in a child with CP using the Dynamic Core for Kids approach.

For more detailed description of the study please see Shelley Mannell’s blog at For more information on the clinical approach please see


Claus AP, Hides JA, Moseley GL, Hodges PW. 2009. “Different ways to balance the spine: subtle changes in sagittal spinal curves affect regional muscle activity.” Spine 34(6): E208-14.

Hodges PW, Butler JE, McKenzie DK, and Gandevia SC. 1997. “Contraction of the human diaphragm during rapid postural adjustments.” The Journal Of Physiology 505 (Pt 2): 539-548.

Hodges PW and Gandevia SC. 2000. “Changes in intra-abdominal pressure during postural and respiratory activation of the human diaphragm.” The Journal of Applied Physiology 89: 967-976.

Hodges PW, Sapsford R, and Pengel LH. 2007. “Postural and respiratory functions of the pelvic floor muscles.” Neurourology And Urodynamics 26, no. 3: 362-37

Liu WY, Zaino CA, McCoy SW. 2007. Anticipatory postural adjustments in children with cerebral palsy and children with typical development. Pediatric Physical Therapy 19(3): 188-95.

Sapsford RR, Richardson CA, Maher CF, and Hodges PW. 2008. “Pelvic floor muscle activity in different sitting postures in continent and incontinent women.” Archives of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation 89, no. 9: 1741-1747.

Van der Heide JC, Begeer C, Otten B et all. 2004. Postural control during reaching in preterm children with cerebral palsy. Developmental Medicine and Child Neurology 46: 253 – 266.

Julie Wiebe has been studying human movement since 1988. A BS in Movement Science, a Master’s of Physical Therapy degree, and 14 years of clinical experience in both Sports Medicine and Women’s Health have combined to create a unique approach to rehabilitation and return to fitness and sport. Applying the concepts of sports medicine to the particular health needs of women following pregnancy and childbirth led to the development of a unique Core-recruitment system, driven by the diaphragm and pelvic floor. Julie shares her evidence-based approach with clients one-on-one and provides continuing education to rehab and exercise professionals specializing in a variety of patient populations including sports medicine, orthopedics, pediatrics, subacute rehabilitation, and adult neurology.

Shelley Mannell is a registered Physical Therapist with over 20 years experience in pediatrics. She is certified in NDT (C/NDT) and has advanced clinical skills in a variety of complementary therapies. She is also a certified children’s yoga and meditation facilitator and the creator of HeartSpace Yoga and Meditation for children with motor and sensory challenges. Recently, she has co-created Dynamic Core for Kids, a neuromuscular approach to treating core stability in children with motor challenges. Shelley was a clinical faculty member in the Faculty of Rehabilitation Science at McMaster University for 10 years and continues to participate in clinical research and education. Shelley’s practice combines the science of movement, the theoretical basis of treatment and the art of clinical skills in a problem-solving approach which facilitates optimum functional skills for each child. Shelley enjoys connecting with other therapists in a variety of communities through her HeartSpace blog and also through her continuing education courses.

Note: To support the site we make money on some products, product categories and services that we talk about on this website through affiliate relationships with the merchants in question. We get a small commission on sales of those products.That in no way affects our opinions of those products and services.

50 free prints
  1. Sylvia
    February 4, 2015 |
  2. February 4, 2015 |
  3. February 4, 2015 |
  4. February 4, 2015 |
    • February 4, 2015 |
  5. February 4, 2015 |
  6. Lois Colter
    February 4, 2015 |