A place very important to us, The Children’s Center, is hosting an important fundraiser in a month, The Children’s Center Classic 5k/10k on 2/17/18. Parker received his services from this establishment for almost 6 years. For the first two years, I wasn’t an employee of TCC and learned so much from his service providers that came to see us. They made such an impact on me that eventually, I was blessed to join their staff. Before Parker, I had little knowledge of providing services to infants and young toddlers. Having the professionals come into my home and work with my child was the best front-row learning experience for me. And they made such an impact on me that I wanted to join their mission. I’m so thankful. The Children’s Center is such a gift in our community. The services are completely free to the families. Unheard of! We’ll always do our part to give back to this great place and are forever grateful to the individuals who give their time and resources to continue the mission of serving children with disabilities and their families.
I’d like to share an experience with early intervention from 7 years ago, when Parker was 8 months old. I originally published this on my former blog home, which you can read about in my first post.
“As many people close to us know, Parker receives early intervention services from the Children’s Center for Communication and Development at USM. When we mention that on Thursday afternoons we’ll be at our house so Parker’s teacher and therapist can come by for their weekly visit, many people ask, “What exactly do they do?” Well, I usually reply by saying that they really come to teach Andy and I new things, but I was thinking tonight as I looked around at the new toys we got yesterday that maybe I should “demystify” this therapy we’ve been talking about. Because really, unless you’ve experienced it, you really don’t know what we’re talking about or describing. Speech Therapy is my profession and I wasn’t even sure what all would take place when we first ventured out into this world of early intervention, simply because I had very little experience with the birth to 3 population. But here we are, 8 months into it and we’ve learned a whole lot so far. So, I’d like to share a little about our experience because the things we’re learning aren’t just things that benefit a child with special needs. Most everything we’ve learned will benefit any baby and any parent/caregiver of an infant.
So here goes:
The first thing I’d like to introduce is this:
These are Parker’s “Magic Pants”. They might just look like spandex shorts that were stitched incorrectly, but they actually serve a pretty neat purpose. Parker wears these (under the direction of his Physical Therapist) during any floor-time activity (fancy way of saying–‘playing on the floor’). These “Magic Pants” help to keep Parker’s hips together and supported so that he doesn’t get into the habit of allowing his hips to flair outward during activities such as crawling, sitting, etc. Since all developmental skills build up to other developmental skills, it’s important for a child with special needs to stop bad habits in their tracks because a bad habit of flaired hips (outward facing knees) during tummy-time just means that the habit will carry-over to sitting and crawling, making those higher-level motor skills more difficult to achieve, especially if the child has low muscle tone. This concept also factors into the reason we don’t use the famed Bumbo seat. When a child sits in the Bumbo seat, his legs are spaced apart by the middle part of the chair and his bottom is at a lower elevation than his legs, which means his abs are in constant flexion. Our PT explained it to us by having us imagine ourselves in the same position. Who wants to sit with their abs flexing continuously? That position doesn’t seem very comfortable to me. Now, I’m not saying that you should throw your Bumbo seat out or anything like that. Just do your research and make an informed decision on your own. We did the same and decided that we would not use the Bumbo seat. I will say this…We did use the Bumbo seat for a brief period of time before we figured out how to support Parker properly in the high chair because it provided such awesome face-to-face interaction during feeding and he was just too small at the time for the high chair. I put two folded receiving blankets in the seat of the chair though so that Parker’s bottom wouldn’t be lower than his legs, which leads me to the next gem of early intervention:
The Highchair Helper
The highchair helper is new to our house and we couldn’t be more happy about it. Before the highchair helper, I was using a small quilt and several hand towels to position Parker correctly in his high chair. His PT helped us to understand that a baby needs correct support in the highchair so that he can begin to reach out and grab his spoon or finger-foods when the time arises. Also, you don’t want your baby leaning over on the side of the highchair while he’s trying to swallow (choking hazard!!). The highchair helper is made out of foam, so it’s comfy for Parker and it hugs him in all the right places so that he’s sitting up perfectly. It’s so cute to watch him prop his elbows on it, just like a little man! Also, it has a removable terry-cloth cover that’s machine washable, which is a necessity.
To stay on the topic of feeding, I’d like to introduce two special cups. The first cup pictured is one of our newer toys and it provides the same experience as cup-drinking, but you can monitor the flow of the liquid coming from the cup with the turn of the lid and it is made so that the child gets the tactile cue of the liquid touching the lips without spilling it all over himself or choking. Also, it’s designed so that it’s easier for the child to hold. The second cup the “nosey cup” and it’s the one we’ve used more. This little cup is perfect for a cup-drinker in training because Mommy can see how much liquid baby is getting to the mouth because there’s a hole in the cup over the nose. We’ve used it a few times. I’ve been using it a few times a week with Parker, but during the last two weeks he’s really taken to it and is actually swallowing liquid instead of spitting it back at me!
Nosey Cup…The dip shown in the cup allows nose and mouth of baby to be seen during drinking. And yes, I do recognize that it’s pink! That’s the only one the teacher had!
Some moms out there might wonder why we’re introducing cup-drinking when Parker isn’t even drinking from a sippy-cup yet. Well, I have a few reasons. First of all, sippy-cups have their time and place in a child’s life. In the case of my child, I’m looking at the situation as a Speech Therapist and as a mom. My education has taught me that we use different muscles and movements of our oral structures (mouth, lips, tongue, etc.) when drinking from a cup versus drinking from a sippy-cup. A sippy-cup probably does help the child control how much liquid comes out of the spout, but essentially, the child is still sucking the liquid out of the cup via the spout, which is easier than cup-drinking. Cup-drinking is a life-long skill and if the textbooks say that my child might have low muscle tone, which could mean low muscle tone in the lips and mouth, then I’m going to give him a head-start in cup-drinking. That’s just my thought process on the issue, and I know I’m probably putting too much thought into it, but if I’ve learned anything so far about parenting a child with special needs it’s this: you must be intentional in all things because your child is constantly learning, adapting, and absorbing information. I’m sure I will resort to a sippy-cup when Parker gets to the point of wanting something to drink in the car or at a baseball game, so I’m not saying I’ll never use one and I’m not saying that they shouldn’t be used. I’m just writing about my experiences thus far.
We also started incorporating sign-language this week (we’ve been busy!) and Parker is taking it all in and not missing a beat! Maybe I can write about that experience soon. I hope you’ve found this information helpful! Goodnight!”
If you’d like to help fund services and materials like the ones we’ve received, here’s the links:
To race: thechildrenscenterclassic.com
To donate: https://pages.donately.com/thechildrenscenter/fundraiser/katherine-pittman-the-children-s-center-classic