Conditions & Treatments, Therapy

Everything you always wanted to know about therapy *but were afraid to ask*

FullSizeRender 7“Therapy” is a term that I often mention on the blog because it’s a frequent activity for our family. If you’ve ever done any type of therapy, you know that a lot of the work actually happens outside of the sessions. For us, therapy has become more of a way of life.

Maddie participates in the trifecta of therapies: physical, occupational and speech. You may be wondering what therapy looks like for an infant or toddler, and what type of work we’re doing at such a young age. Here’s a quick crash course…

When infants or toddlers enter therapy, the term “early intervention” is often used. Early intervention refers to services offered to a child with developmental delays or disabilities.  The idea is that by beginning to work with a child at a very young age, you give them the maximum opportunity to learn and succeed.

The first therapy that Maddie was referred to was Physical Therapy at approximately two months. She was born with Torticollis, which essentially means that her neck was tilted and she favored turning her head in one direction. During our therapy sessions we learned stretching exercises to do with her (think loosening up your muscles before a long run). Our therapist also began to work with her on a more holistic therapy approach called CranioSacral Therapy, which centers around the theory that there is inner tissue throughout the body that needs to be aligned for things to function properly.

Her case of Torticollis was fairly minor, but as she grew out of that, we started to see other delays in large motor skills, such as flipping from back to tummy and sitting up. So our therapist began to show us movements that we could use to get her working toward these goals. For most children, these movements will happen naturally. But for a child with a disability, there are often special challenges to overcome. In Maddie’s case, low muscle tone is one of the biggest.

Today our goals include crawling, standing and walking. Here are a couple of examples of movements that we are working on. At this age, there is a lot of emphasis on teaching the parents how to repeat the exercises with their children at home.

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Side sitting is an important step towards crawling.
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Maddie will often do activities on this giant ball that she won’t do on the floor. Here we’re working on sitting on her knees and lifting up on her forearms- both important steps towards crawling.
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Trying out some braces to work on standing.
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The highly coveted position of all- fours.

The next therapy we started was occupational therapy, when she was about 15 months. Occupational is our least intensive therapy, as we only see our therapist once every other month. It’s in connection with Help Me Grow, Ohio’s early intervention program. Occupational therapy focuses on teaching people functional day-to-day life skills. For instance, tying one’s shoes or taking a bath. In Maddie’s case we are teaching her to feed herself and to drink from a straw cup.

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Maddie’s lack of strength made it difficult for her to use a sippy cup, but our therapist showed us that a straw cup works well because she does not have to lift it up to her mouth to drink.

Speech therapy is our newest therapy. Maddie was referred at 16 months because of a possible speech delay. She is quite young for speech intervention, but since it was given to us as an option, we decided to take full advantage. At this age speech focuses mainly on sign language. Since she’s still learning to drink from a straw, we work on that as well. If Maddie had any trouble eating or swallowing, speech would also be involved in those functions. At this point the most important thing is that Maddie develops a way to communicate so she doesn’t get frustrated. The signs we work on are “More,” “All done,” “Eat,” “Drink,” “Music,” and “Stop.” All the while that we work on the movements of sign, we also work on verbal language. So the end goal is always verbal, but sign is a vehicle that helps in the process.

There are so many things to be learned during each of our therapy sessions, and I constantly have a running list in my head of everything that we should be doing. On the other hand, we try to balance life so that Maddie also has time to have fun and be a kid.

Ideally, therapy is play and play is therapy. #goals

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