For Down Syndrome Awareness month, I thought I would put together a post of all the PT and OT Hazel has done from birth to 6 months (she is doing more than this now, I will post later). I tried to be thorough and remember back to when we started. Hope it helps!!! This is our experience and if you would like to try any of these activities, please ask a professional in your community.
We are so fortunate to live in a community that has excellent resources for children with special needs, like Hazel. There are so many countries in the world that are not equipped with the financial means or the expert knowledge that Canada has to support children with different abilities (K...I am stepping off the soap box now, but I am only putting it aside, this topic will be addressed another day). I hope that this post helps those who feel they live in a community that doesn't have the best support for their children.
The John McGivney Children's Center (JMCC) provides us with all the services that Hazel needs, such as occupational therapy (OT), speech therapy and physical therapy (PT). I've sung this tune before and I will continue to sing the praises of the therapists that come to visit and play with Hazel. They are always encouraging, positive and extremely knowledgeable in their respective fields.
(Note: Hazel is awarded in-home services as a result of her cardiac issue (VSD). She is considered medically fragile and therefore needs to be in a clean sterile environment. When she is bigger and stronger she will receive all of these services at JMCC.)
Now that Hazel is done her surgery and getting older we can do some really fun muscle awareness and strengthening activities with her. We always follow her lead and never push her to do anything unless she wants to. For us, and all her therapists, it is first about Hazel being happy and content, one of the reasons I love them so much. Hazel has demonstrated a will to grow and meet her milestones all on her own with little help from us. We are only providing her with the foundation and from this she will build her empire.
I want to make a note that I am not suggesting that anyone do any of the activities that Hazel does without proper instruction from a therapist. Every child is different, works at their own pace and has needs that are their own. I am outlining the basics for those of you who are interested and can gain some understanding of what we do to support Hazel. Also, seeing what we do may spark discourse with your therapist to see whether these activities would benefit your child.
I wasn't as diligent at documenting her OT and PT at the beginning, perhaps because there really is not much we did early on. Starting from when she was about 3 to 4 months old we would put her laying on her side up against the back of the couch. We would often hold a toy out in front of her to encourage her to bring her hands to her mid-line. We gave her as much tummy time as she would allow. I would also carry her around the house in my arms while she faced out, which also encouraged strengthening the neck muscles. Rolling over started when she was about 4 months old.
Hazel in her side lying position...
Hazel working on balance and sitting up...
Sometimes I put her nursing pillow in front to support her and give her a top to play with her toys...
Now that she is 7 months and has mastered the art of rolling everywhere and anywhere, we are moving on to sitting up and being able to shift her weight from one side to the other, which will help to facilitate going from laying to sitting. Hazel has been doing very well and can sit balanced for a while, both using her hands out in front and with no hands at all.
Here is the position we have her getting used to. This will help her to transition her weight from one side to the other. So she will be able to turn to either side to play with her toys. Also, this will help her to learn to lean on and strengthen both arms. There are pictures attached of Hazel with her OT...LOVE LOVE LOVE her!!!!
Having her legs tucked under her like this will start getting her comfortable on her knees for crawling. Her arms are on top of her OT's thigh. We are making sure her knees and feet stay together so that her joints are not getting over extended. The OT is just putting gentle pressure on her leg to keep it tucked under and in the right position.
This one is just sitting with her feet firmly on the ground, which will get her used to putting pressure on her feet. The OT is holding her hand and applying light pressure to the tops of her knees or tops of her feet to create muscle awareness for her legs and feet.
This is Hazel's play arch. This is another way to help her to shift her weight and get used to balancing her weight on either side. It also encourages her to grab and play with her toys, aiding her along with her gross and fine motor skills. Her OT is there to guide her and let her move where she would like. She is allowing her enough freedom to go to whatever toy she wants, she just keeps her hands on her to support her.
FINALLY, the medicine ball has a purpose in our home!!! By putting Hazel on the ball and gently bouncing her on it in the position shown, it creates muscle awareness all over her body.
Her OT is applying firm pressure to keep her from slipping off (obviously) and so that she feels comfortable. She doesn't want her to over-extend any of her muscles by trying to look up and back at her.
She can let her stand on her legs, as shown here, to get her used to using the muscles there.