Peoria therapist donates services to special needs child 

Nathan and Renee Charlan brought their son, Zachary, 3, to Michelle Turner’s Movement Lesson office, seeking alternative treatment for cerebral palsy. They have been amazed at their son’s progress.  

Posted: Thursday, August 26, 2010 9:00 pm | Updated: 8:42 am, Fri Aug 27, 2010.

Carolyn Dryer 

Nathan and Renee Charlan's son Zachary was five weeks premature and was delivered by Caeserean Section. He remained in the natal intensive care unit 30 days, and weighed just four pounds, five ounces when he went home.

"They told us he would be delayed, but would catch up," Renee Charlan said. "He had strange movements, but the doctor said he would grow out of it."

Six months later, Zachary started jerking his hands above his head. An EEG and MRI showed he had significant brain damage, and that was when the Charlans heard the diagnosis: Cerebral palsy. Although it was devastating news, the Charlans began to learn how to deal with Zachary's condition. He was placed on "very strong" medication," his mom said, and the seizures stopped.

At 7 months, his seizures came just once a month and he was weaned off the medication.

The Charlans also got in touch with other parents of children with special needs by creating a website, ​ Nathan Charlan works from his home for Warm Springs Productions in Montana, which produces outdoor adventure shows on Verses and ESPN2. He said his employer is "very sensitive" to his family condition.

"They joined me and used company resources to help me out with the online website," Nathan Charlan said.

Each week, the Charlans began to produce segments showing the progress Zachary, now 3, was making. Michelle Turner, a movement specialist in Peoria, who is also the mother of two children with special needs, went to the website, and decided she could help Zachary using the Anat Baniel Method.

 There was just one problem: the Charlans' insurance would not cover it.

No problem. Turner offered to treat Zachary at no cost. All the Charlans had to do was make the trip.

They did not book a flight. Instead, they packed their belongings and all the medical supplies for Zachary's needs and began the journey from Denver to Peoria.

Turner was ready. She has been ready to lend her expertise since her own two children were born. One of her sons is autistic and has no immune system.

When Turner first heard the words, "special needs," she began her own journey to find treatments that would help her children deal with their condition and improve their lives.

She studied. She went back to school. Soon, she obtained certification as a movement integration specialist and educator.

Turner took what she learned into lessons for others. She opened Movement Lesson in the Plaza del Rio Commercial Center, 9401 W. Thunderbird Road. Don't expect a large office. The person who greets you at the door is Turner.

To your right, just inside the door, is a low, padded table with various "toys of the trade."

That is where Zachary received his alternative therapy two weeks ago. While his parents observed, Turner began to hold Zachary as he stood alongside the table and played with a toy that belted out "BINGO."

Zachary smiled. He felt Turner's touch at his hips. She was training his bones and muscles to straighten themselves, to enable Zachary to keep his feet from crossing. Children with cerebral palsy get their signals crossed and even if their brain is sending an order to their bones and muscles, sometimes, there is a breakdown in communication. The signal gets scrambled and the arms and legs cross, thus preventing a person from standing and sitting properly.

"His brain just doesn't tell him to move in the proper way," Renee said.

As the week progressed, Zachary's parents saw a notable difference in his behavior.

"We've seen amazing results in just one week (with Turner)," Renee said.

Turner said, "I usually tell parents within three lessons, they know if this is working with their child."

An added bonus at Turner's office is the help from Diane Pena, an early interventionist for vision. She helped Turner's son get assistance from National Federation of the Blind.

Zachary has good cognition, and he knows words, numbers and colors. He can say his name, and repeat the alphabet at his mother's coaching. He has what his mom calls "two handsful of words," and uses an iPad to communicate. He plays different games and knows animal sounds.

But the trip to Peoria was significant in his development. And the Charlans plan to make sure the rest of the world know about it.

"His dad is a television producer, so Zachary has had online presence for a long time," Renee said.

"Zachary had very little use of his left arm and scissored legs," Turner said. "Now, he's able to shift without falling over."

"He looks like a typical 3-year-old," his mom said.

Turner said parents have to find the one thing their children enjoy doing with them and "one-up" their system very gradually.

Since Turner's work is not covered by state services, she charges $40 per hour, and that means no receptionist.

"It would not have been possible without her generosity," Renee said.

"Colorado does not pay for it."

Although Zachary is on Medicaid, only basic services - physical, occupational and speech therapy - are covered. And Renee said she and Nathan have not seen results from traditional methods.

The Charlans will probably be back in October for another "jump" in Zachary's treatment. Turner will be ready.

While she waits, Turner will be helping other children with special needs as well as seniors. She said she does not believe in overmedicating or surgery for seniors who have mobility issues.

"As a senior, you start losing milestones, just like a special needs  child," she said. "Also, balance starts to go because of age and that's when the pain starts."

To learn more about Turner's movement integration therapy, call 602-909-2565, or visit

Peoria Times