Every Friday morning since Zoe was about six weeks old, we pack our diaper bag, load the car, & head to therapy. Prior to her birth, I knew enough about the benefits of therapies-PT, OT, speech, developmental, etc., to refer patients but that was about it. Since her birth & our eight months in I feel like I could get an honorary degree in therapy! After seeing her progress first hand and learning lots of cool techniques, stretches, exercises & tricks, she has made tremendous progress developmentally & I am loving watching her grow. I thought I’d take a few moments & share exactly what we are doing with her.
Before Zoe’s birth, John & I decided we wanted to be aggressive with the therapies we added for Zoe, as long as it worked well for our entire family. Fortunately, we’ve been very blessed that our work schedules have allowed us to incorporate several therapies per week without interfering with work or family time.
After her birth, we started the process of enrolling her in Kentucky’s First Steps program. This is a state program that provides early intervention for children with developmental delays or who are at risk for delays. With this program, we have a team consisting of John & myself, our therapist, & our service coordinator. We meet regularly as a team to set goals for Zoe & evaluate her progress. Her goals so far have been basically the typical baby/child milestones. Some of her new goals for 6-12 months included transitioning to a sippy cup, independent sitting, & crawling. Her therapist is a developmental interventionist, and she visits Zoe at our house once a week for therapy, which is basically playtime. Faith thinks it’s playtime for her also, and she’s managed to snag a few jelly beans out of the process 😉
Once we got that service squared away, we began the search to add physical therapy. We were unable to obtain any PT services through First Steps due to our rural location, so we started looking elsewhere. Thankfully, the corporation I work for has an awesome rehab department we were able to get Zoe in with fairly quickly. We have since gotten to be close with our therapists; after all, they see us every Friday morning at the same time. There’s me, lugging in my giant diet coke in one hand, Zoe in another, diaper bag slung across my bag filled with all the “regular” baby stuff, plus AFOs (i.e., ankle braces), kinesiotape, baby glasses…we’ve had diaper blow-outs, meltdowns, teething troubles, spit-up, basically anything & everything happen in PT. They’re like our second family 🙂
At about three months’ old is when we started having some visual concerns for Zoe. She didn’t want to track close objects, or smile at our faces when they were close to hers. An opthalmology exam found she was farsighted, hence the reason for her baby glasses now, but thankfully her vision is improving. We added occupational therapy at that point to help her visual-motor & fine motor skills progress, and thankfully she has progressed by leaps & bounds in this area! Our PT & OT have a system called co-treating, where basically OT works with hands & oral/visual skills, while PT works on gross motor function. All at the same time. It’s pretty neat, but it basically looks like Zoe is just a pampered little baby with all this attention she gets 😉
With all these therapies, it’s hard to not get addicted to it. If there’s a problem, there should be a therapy for it. It’s empowering to learn how to work on something & then see progress from your efforts. It’s so exciting to get to celebrate each milestone Zoe hits because I know just how hard she worked for it-week in & week out. Before we knew her vision was improving, I even discovered vision therapy. What?!? Who even knew that existed? Well, it does, and we briefly considered adding it for Zoe but decided to wait & see how her vision continues to progress.
Our latest thing we have been working on in therapy is weight-bearing. Zoe is getting to the age where babies become interested in being upright, in learning all about the world around them. She is close to mastering sitting, and has become a pro at tummy time & rolling, so now we have to tackle our next big challenge-her knees. Since Zoe’s birth she has never been able to bear weight on her legs when we hold her upright. This is extremely common with spina bifida; it just takes these kids a little longer but they get there in their own time. Putting weight on the legs strengthens the muscles, stimulates bone growth, and makes for stronger joints. Since Zoe got her AFOs & we’ve been using her jumper, we’ve seen a noticeable increase in her leg strength, and she’s started locking her knees very briefly.
So our next step is this stander. Standers basically function to help a child learn to stand. It basically supports their upper body while locking the knees in place, so they get all the benefits any other child would from standing up. Over time, as the child grows stronger, you slowly decrease the amount of support they need until they are strong enought to stand up without it. A long process, but worth the wait!
It’s a marathon, not a sprint, right?
Sometimes it’s weird for me to think this is my life. That I now know things about neurosurgery, urology, & orthopedics I never dreamed I would know-especially without an M.D. behind my name. Or that I know the different parts of a VP shunt. Or what exercises will best strengthen which muscles. Or what all these letters-AFOs, SMOs, HKAFOs all mean. Or that I enjoy taking my daughter to PT/OT on Fridays. Just weird.
But I love it! And I love this hard-working, chubby-cheeked patriotic baby who couldn’t be any cuter or more determined. Because I’m pretty sure if I had to drag myself out of bed at 8 am on a Friday morning to do push-ups, crunches, & tons of other exercises I wouldn’t be a happy camper. But Zoe is, and she just keeps going.
Although every girl needs a few moments to chill out by herself after a hard day at play…