The Natalie Barnhard Center
for Spinal Cord Injury Rehabilitation and Recovery
In Collaboration with
There are certain things you should look for and questions to ask when selecting a place for your rehabilitation and treatment. It is important to be confident about the quality of care you or your loved one will receive.
Motion Project is dedicated to improving the lives of those with a spinal cord injury, brain injury, stroke, multiple sclerosis, chronic pain, and other neurological disorders. We provide an intense, activity based exercise program working to achieve some of the most basic lifelong functions and benefits for our clients. We all know how important exercise is for overall health, even more important for those living with paralysis.
By specializing in this area, it enables our staff to develop high levels of expertise and achieve better results for our clients. When it comes to functional improvements, our clients have better outcomes and more independence.
What We Do
Motion Project is not a general rehabilitation facility like the majority of facilities you may find. It means we have more experience working with the spinal cord injured population. We focus on the client’s weaknesses and work on coordinating the entire body in a very functional and complete style of rehabilitation. Most other facilities tend to focus only on the client’s current abilities and don’t work with the affected areas to improve motor function overall. Motion Project works to support the whole person to assist with advocacy, care navigation and spiritual healing. We help educate clients and families so they know what to expect moving forward with a spinal cord injury. Motion Project is not just about the physical gains, but we strive to work together to get clients back to work, to school, or into sports pursuing their dreams. Our goal is to support each client to reach their goals to live a full, productive, healthy life.
What We Treat
Spinal Cord Injury
Traumatic Brain Injuries
SMA (spinal muscle atrophy)
AFM (acute flaccid myelitis)
What is Activity Based Therapy?
Activity Based Therapy (ABT) uses tools and interventions to promote neuro-recovery to improve muscle activation or sensory function below the level of injury in the spinal cord. These interventions often involve weight-bearing through lower limbs, whole-body coordination exercises, developmental sequence activities, and task-specific training performed mainly out of the wheelchair, in positions where the trunk must work against gravity. This is often combined with facilitation or vibration techniques, functional electric stimulation, body weight supported locomotor training (manual or robotic); upper extremity robotics, task-specific patterned motor activity, and progressive resistance training to build strength and endurance.
Often at the individual’s own expense, this program offers the opportunity to continue work on recovery of function after conventional rehabilitation has been completed. Conventional therapy often focuses on the use of the preserved muscles to achieve compensatory functioning, whereas ABT attempts to activate muscles below the level of the lesion, with the goal of retraining the nervous system to recover a specific motor task.
ABT also benefits overall health and well being and can reduce potential secondary complications that result from paralysis. While there is no cure for spinal cord injuries or paralysis, the ultimate aim of rehabilitation is to facilitate the return to a productive and satisfying life
• Approximately 5,357,970 people living in the U.S. reported they were living with some form of paralysis, defined as the inability to move the upper or lower extremities.
• The leading cause of paralysis was stroke (33.7 percent), followed by spinal cord injury (27.3 percent) and multiple sclerosis (18.6 percent).
• Lengths of stay in the hospital acute care unit have declined to 11 days
• Lengths of stay in rehabilitation have declined 31 days
Motion Project Foundation and The Natalie Barnhard Center for Spinal Cord Injury Rehabilitation and Recovery is dedicated to improving the lives of those with a spinal cord injury, brain injury, stroke, multiple sclerosis, chronic pain, and other neurological disorders.
Our mission is to inspire those with various neurological injuries or disorders to rise above their challenges by promoting physical independence; and providing emotional support and spiritual healing to foster hope for a successful and fulfilling life.
Our new comprehensive facility is unique in Western New York, being the first and only place to offer services currently unavailable anywhere in the region or within 300 miles outside of WNY. Offering world leading robotic rehabilitation devices
A place for people to come to recover after a life-changing spinal cord injury. We never stop moving forward to bring the best outcomes for individuals as they progress through their journey toward recovery.
We provide :
• Activity Based Therapy
• State of the art equipment
• World Leading Robotics
• Exceptionally Trained Therapists
• Assistive technologies
• Peer Support
• Care Navigation
• Spiritual Guidance
• Adaptive sports and Recreation
• Community Center for Advocacy & Support
Along with our collaboration with the University of Buffalo we are going to implement outreach and education programs to elevate the voices of people living with paralysis and their families through education and outreach efforts in the areas of community-based long-term services and supports, enhanced family caregiver support, and access to rehabilitation technologies.
Please follow us and share pictures and comments on our social media:
Instagram/ Twitter: @MotionProjectNY
Facebook/ LinkedIn: Motion Project Foundation
The world’s first upper extremity concept that enables therapists to deliver higher training efficiency that provides arm weight support, the ArmeoSpring enables patients to use any remaining motor function and encourages them to achieve a higher number of reach and grasp movements based on specific therapy goals.
The ArmeoSpring allows simultaneous arm and hand training in an extensive 3D workspace with six degrees of freedom.
The ergonomic and adjustable exoskeleton of the ArmeoSpring embraces the whole arm, from shoulder to hand, and counterbalances the weight of the patient’s arm.
An extensive library of motivating game-like Augmented Performance Feedback exercises has been designed to train core movement patterns that are commonly used in activities of daily living.
The Giger MD hybrid is a medical device that allows for active simultaneous and coordinated movements of both upper and lower extremities. The hybrid model contains logic, arithmetic, and speech activities as well as visual biofeedback graphs that are preprogrammed into the software to improve cognitive skills during active motion. The Giger places the client in a horizontal position which eliminates the effects of gravity, therefore allowing him/her to perform the task without difficulty and/or place stress on the joints.
This device has been clinically shown to help the brain re-learn rhythmic patterns, such as walking, and connect upper and lower body movements. Clients who have benefited from this device include spinal cord injuries, stroke, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s, and other neurological disorders.
by Sports Art
The Madonna iCare is a motor assisted elliptical with body weight support that can help people with physical disabilities regain walking and fitness abilities. The iCare enables synchronous upper and lower limb movements similar to the natural walking pattern and clinically shown to improve muscle activation in the legs. Trainers can change the speed, resistance, body weight support, motor or non-motorized assistance, and stride length in order to accommodate nearly all individuals and ages with varying disabilities. A ramp is also included for easy setup access.
Published research on the Madonna iCare has demonstrated physiological improvements in individuals with stroke, SCI, cerebral palsy, traumatic brain injury, Guillain-barré disease, and other neurological or physical impairments.
The NuStep Transitt is an exercise machine that assists in strength and cardiovascular training. The Transitt has 12 preprogrammed exercises that are categorized based on exercise type or body region. Some of the programs that the Transitt offers are paddle-ball, climbing, and ankle control. Additionally, users can create their own account and are provided with real-time visual biofeedback for tracking their progress of motor control, strength, and endurance during a training session. The Transitt also calculates body weight to determine the appropriate exercise parameters.
Because of its inclusive design features, the Transitt allows for a low impact workout that benefits individuals of all ages, fitness levels, and injuries including but not limited to: spinal cord injuries, multiple sclerosis, stroke, and cerebral palsy. Increased circulation, stability, and range of motion of both upper and lower extremities are some of the many benefits to using the Transitt.
RT300 FES bike
The RT300 functional electrical stimulation (FES) bike is a motorized bicycle that combines functional electrical stimulation to maintain/increase muscle mass in leg and core muscles. Depending on the goal of the session, the motor can provide assistance or resistance while performing mass repetitions of rhythmic cycling. Leg movements are sequenced with FES evoked muscular contractions at the precise time and degree of rotation. The software provides biofeedback and data tracking for accurate measurements of physiological outputs.
The RT300 bike is designed for a wide range of neurological impairments. With wheelchair restraints, clients can safely secure themselves into the leg supports of the bike for proper alignment.
The Lokomat® is the world leading robotic rehabilitation device that offers highly intensive, physiologic training. The Lokomat® improves the therapy outcome by providing highly intensive, individualized training in a motivational environment of constant feedback.
Advantages of Lokomat® Therapy:
• Effective Rehabilitation Training
Robot-assisted therapy enables effective and intensive training to increase the strength of muscles and the range of motion of joints.
• Most Physiological Movement
The physiological movement of the lower extremities is ensured by the individually adjustable patient interface. Additionally, the hip and knee joint angles can be adjusted during training to the patient’s specific needs.
• Optimal Patient Challenge
During rehabilitation, patients need to be challenged. Therapists can help patients reach their goals by setting the training parameters according to their performance.
• Increased Efficiency
The Lokomat® allows therapists to focus on the patient and the actual therapy. It enhances staff efficiency and safety, leading to higher training intensity, more treatments per therapist, and consistent, superior patient care.
• State-of-the-Art Gait Rehabilitation
Patients are increasingly more informed about what the most effective and efficient therapy is, and they use this information to decide where to go for their rehabilitation.
The UpperTone is an upper body workout machine designed for people with cervical spinal cord injuries. Designed by a person with quadriplegia, the UpperTone enables users to adjust resistance and exercises without any assistance or grip strength.
Our parallel bars include whole-body vibrations which are beneficial to clients who suffer from spinal cord injuries, stroke, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s, amputations, transverse myelitis, and other neurological disorders. This stimulation has shown improvements with increased activity in the lower and upper extremities.
The theory is that vibration therapy assists with increasing bone density, reducing muscle spasticity, increasing muscle tone, improvements in balance, posture, and building muscle.
Improvement may occur with gait or walking function for those with incomplete spinal cord injury. Individuals with stroke have noticed postural improvement leading to fewer falls. For those with Parkinson’s disease, there could be an improvement in balance and function. For those with multiple sclerosis, improvement in lower leg strength, posture, spasticity, and function have been noted.
These may seem like small improvements for anyone’s therapy, but they can be extremely significant for quality of life and functional gains.
by Restorative Therapies
The Xcite2 FES utilizes functional electrical stimulation (FES) for task-specific activities. The FES targets peripheral nerves to facilitate muscular contractions during activities commonly used in daily living. Each pre-programmed task in the software is meticulously timed to activate specific muscles in a correct sequenced stimulation pattern to perform the prescribed activity.
With 40 pre-programmed integrated activities to help with activities of daily living such as hand strengthening, learning to grasp or feeding to postural re-training, transfers and upper/lower mobility skills – nearly any individual with neurological weakness or paralysis will benefit from using Xcite2.
Xcite2 enhances the impact of the traditional therapeutic activities that support muscle re-education by:
– Enhancing active muscle contractions
– Facilitating dynamic, reciprocal movement patterns for normalized input
– Providing patient feedback with an animated display and audio cues
The ZeroG is a robotic body weight support system used for gait and balance training. It can provide constant unloading, up to 95% of a client’s body weight, during movements and can be changed by pounds to alter therapy intensity. The ZeroG has a programmed sensor that anticipates and reacts to patient movements for fall protection during sessions. Real-time visual biofeedback is also provided using interactive balance training modules and games.
Balance recovery involving rapid compensatory stepping is essential to prevent falling. As the first technology to apply perturbations in a safe and controlled manner, ZeroG offers TRiP (training responses in postural rehabilitation) balance training during ambulation or stationary activities to improve stability and reduce risk of falls. Training sessions with the ZeroG can include sit to stands, crawling, overground walking, reaching tasks, balance training, and stair activities.
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Natalie Barnhard, PTA, LMT
President and Executive Officer
My name is Natalie Barnhard and I have a background as a Physical Therapist Assistant and a Licensed Massage Therapist. Having a background helping people as a therapist on the clinical side and then becoming a patient after my injury gave me a unique perspective to help create this foundation and rehabilitation center. I wanted to have a place for people to recover not only physically but mentally, emotionally and spiritually as well. We now have a beautiful facility that isn’t just a building, it’s a community for people to come and support each other, learn and grow. Helping people to move past their barriers and live their best life truly brings me so much joy. My faith in God and incredible family support has helped to guide me and push me to be my best.
I enjoy going out to concerts, trying new foods, traveling, and spending time with friends and family. I’ve been involved in some adaptive recreational activities as well which has been so much fun. I try to live my life without limitations or boundaries and show others they can do the same no matter what they have been through.
Mary Lynn Barnhard
Vice President/Treasurer of the Board
My name is Mary Lynn Barnhard and after having experienced firsthand how this type of devastating injury can affect not only the patient but the entire family, I felt a strong desire to work alongside my daughter Natalie in creating her vision of community and whole-body healing. At Motion Project the clients feel like family. They have the opportunity to use cutting edge, state of the art equipment not found anywhere within a few hundred miles of Western New York. Being the first to offer such technology and rehabilitation, individuals can stay close to family and friends when they need it most and still receive highly specialized care, resources and support. Connecting with the families is so important as they know we understand and know exactly how they feel and what they are going through.
To witness how God has guided and directed this dream and vision into what it is today is such a blessing. The opportunity to be able to give back to our community and provide encouragement and hope to those who come through these doors is truly a gift from God. We are excited for Motion Project to help so many people with Spinal Cord Injuries as well as other neurological disorders. So much is yet to come as we are just getting started. We hope you decide to be part of this incredible journey with us!
Melissa Conklin, M.S. Exercise Physiology
My name is Melissa Conklin and I was born and raised in Valley Stream, NY, but my education brought me to Western New York. I currently hold a Masters degree in Exercise Science from the University of Buffalo. While attending the University of Buffalo, I taught strength and conditioning classes and completed an independent research study and graduate internship at the Veteran Affairs hospital. I am certified as an ACLS and BLS provider and working towards ACSM certification as a Clinical Exercise Physiologist. I have worked with individuals with cerebral palsy, spina bifida, dementia, autism, and down syndrome for several years. I also have experience working with stroke patients in cardiac rehabilitation. During my free time, I love staying active whether it’s at the gym, doing yoga, or hiking with my dog.
Throughout my employment at Motion Project, my clients have shown me what true dedication and perseverance is. As a trainer, it is not only important to know your clients but to understand their goals, obstacles, and motivation not only for exercise but for life outside of the facility. Knowing that I am helping my clients achieve their goals, learn more about their bodies, and doing activities they thought were impossible makes this job so rewarding. I am eager for Motion Project’s future to bring both physical and mental well-being together in a facility that strives to build a community for those with spinal cord injuries and other neurological disabilities.
Kyle Johnson, M.S. Exercise Physiology
My name is Kyle Johnson and I recently graduated with my Master’s degree in Exercise Science with a concentration in applied physiology from SUNY Buffalo in 2016. During my time at UB I gained experience working with Division 1 athletes in the weight room along with doing research in nutrition. After graduating I worked at a sports performance facility where I coached high school and collegiate athletes, did personal training, and coached adult group classes. Over the years I have received my certifications in USA Weightlifting Level 1, CrossFit Level 1 and 2, CPR and AED, RockBlades and RockTape.
Exercise, health, and wellness have always been a passion of mine and I knew right out of high school that I wanted to pursue a career where I can help others live healthier, happier lives. My favorite part about working at Motion Project is that everyone who comes through the door is motivated and ready to workout and give their 100% with every session. As a coach and personal trainer I’ve always done my best to lead by example to try and inspire others, but since joining Motion Project I find it’s usually our clients who inspire me. I’m looking forward to watching Motion Project grow as a community and helping anybody who is ready to come in and work. In my free time I like to stay active by working out, going hiking, and doing yard work around the house. I also like hanging out with my friends on the weekends and visiting my family when I can.
Mark Rosen, B.S. Health & Human Services, Nutrition
My name is Mark Rosen and I am a University at Buffalo Graduate with a degree in Health & Human Services, as well as Nutrition. Since 2017, I’ve been training athletes from all different ages, sports, and skill levels in Western NY as Director of Sports Performance and Team Training at a local sports performance facility. Over these years, I’ve developed training programs focused on building strength, speed, agility, mobility, and other training skills for all types of athletes and goals. I’ve also spent time shadowing and studying Occupational Therapy, where I’ve learned different interventions and other methods of therapy and recovery. During my time as a strength and conditioning coach, I’ve received certifications in FMT Performance, Rock Tape, and CPR & AED.
My passion for training, health, and fitness started in my high school days playing Football, Wrestling, and Lacrosse. When I entered college, I found the sport of Powerlifting, in which I currently compete. I believe it’s important as a trainer, coach, and recovery specialist to practice the actions I ask of everyone else in my own daily life.
My passion for training and coaching stems from my love for helping people create confidence while also getting better everyday. One of my favorite parts about working for Motion Project Foundation is the opportunity to impact someone’s life, not only through coaching and training, but building a positive and fun environment to workout in! I’m excited to work with people that are motivated to get better daily and I know that their ambition and energy will not only help reach their goals, but inspire me to do the same!
Frequently Asked Questions
What is your program?
Our specialized therapists work with clients out of their chairs on functional and dynamic movements based on our specialized techniques and our client’s goals. We strive to improve independence and quality of life.
How is your program different from Physical Therapy (PT)?
Most spinal cord injured take much longer to recover than tradition short term, doctor prescribed rehabilitation. Since we focus more on lifelong recovery, we work on a full body recovery, and thus target your weaknesses.
How much does the program cost?
Each client has individual needs and goals. Our sessions include working one-on-one with a specially trained therapist as well as additional staff when needed to perform more difficult activities. The cost of a session is $100/hour. There is also a gym membership which allows use of the equipment for those just looking to stay healthy and can work out on their own or with a caregiver. During COVID-19 there may be restrictions.
How many hours a day and how many days a week would I be working out?
Our staff would work with your individual need to develop a program that works best for you. Some clients may need 2-3 days a week for 2-3 hours a session. Others may find 2 days a week with 2 hours a session. Each client has individual needs and goals. Others will utilize the gym and equipment either on their own if capable, or with a caregiver for assistance.
What are the qualifications of our staff?
All of our staff carry a bachelor/master degree in Exercise Science/Kinesiology. Our staff is also specially trained to work with the spinal cord populations and continue to study the latest techniques and best approach to treatment.
How long is the program?
Every spinal cord injury is different requiring individualized treatment plans to meet the client’s unique goals and achieve the best outcomes. Some clients attend for a few months to a year while others spend many years actively participating in our program for overall health and maintenance…recovery is a lifelong process.
Why is this declined to be covered by insurance companies?
We are not a medical facility, so most insurance companies will not cover treatment. Most insurance puts a time frame on recovery with specific goals for payment. Since most SCI’s vary from individual to individual, it makes it difficult to put a timeline on recovery. It may take months, or perhaps years depending on that individual’s goals. It is our hope that our long term goals bridge the gap between our program and insurance coverage. Many clients choose to do some type of fund raising or look for grant opportunities to help fund their treatment goals. Please refer to a list of possible organizations on our foundation page under the resource tab.
Where can I stay if coming from out of town?
Info to come…
Please read for your information.