Early intervention…7 years ago

Adjustable Flow Cup
Parker in his magic pants!
Parker at 8 months old
Nosey Cup
Highchair Helper
Magic Pants

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:

Magic Pants

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


The brokenness and binding of being mom…

Before I became a mom, I had little understanding of the brokenness and sacrifice in motherhood. My sights were set on tiny little outfits and the plaid pack-n-play with the adjustable bassinet insert. The birth of my biggest boy sparked a journey of understanding and perspective for my limited thoughts. After all, becoming his mom shattered my preconceived notions of being a mom and focused me in on the thought that everything in life might not go as planned and that’s ok. First of all, the physical changes of pregnancy break and change a woman. The growing belly, a welcomed sight of life changing , cells multiplying and forming a new person. In reading Ann Voskamp’s The Broken Way several months ago, I began to see the parallels of this process to the process of spiritual surrender and renewal. My life, born anew because of Christ’s brokenness on the cross, and then my brokenness bound by his love and grace daily. The emotional toil of becoming a mom has its elements of brokenness as well. I wasn’t too privy to this concept either, before my biggest boy. I had no clue that I’d love him as soon as my eyes saw him and that my emotions would swell inside as I held him. I fell hard for him. And with that love for my son, God began breaking me and I began searching. As I moved through stages of grief, accepting the struggles that would come, scripture spoke to me like never before. I began to understand the frailty of life. The misplaced priorities I had served for far too long. And I began to strive, aspiring to be the bravest and brightest mom I could be for my biggest boy, to pave a future of hope for him. Nothing wrong with that mission, except that it wasn’t what God was calling me to do, which made it very tiring. A couple of years later, pregnant with my smallest boy, my striving met my desperation for hope and Jesus showed me my lack of complete surrender through His Holy scripture. I believe motherhood catapulted me into a place where God could speak to my heart to get me to a place of surrender and remind me day-by-day of my need for dependence on Him. After all, motherhood is messy. Being a mom means you’ll serve more, love more, clean more, wipe more, cry more, laugh more, teach more, and sleep less than you ever thought one human could do. But oh the grace you’ll give. The grace that God gives you to pass on to all the little lives you mother. The grace that, when they’ve come to the end of their rope, will remind them of God’s grace embodied, Jesus, who has the power to bind up their brokenness, no matter how messy. The more days I add to my mothering repertoire, the more my eyes are opened to grace, both God’s grace for me and the grace I can show to those around me.  With that, the more I understand how dangerous it is to compare. The comparison trap happens often for us moms, I believe. All the more with social media outlets, where everything looks clean and pretty. We don’t see the moment after the “perfect” mom’s Instagram photo op, where she loses her mind because her kids spill the drink from her  monogrammed Yeti cup. After all, it happens. I read a quote not too long ago that said “What you have and what you don’t have are all an expression of God’s provision.” He gives and takes away, scripture says. And bad things happen because this isn’t Heaven. But this is certain, God works everything for good for those who love Him and are called to His purpose (Romans 8:28). He has the power to do that. Maybe you can find rest in that promise today, reading mom. I sure do. And I hold that promise with a grateful heart, thanking God for using motherhood to draw me to Himself and lead me to contentment with what He has given me, even on the hard days, knowing that in the tough moments, His strength is completely enough.

A lunchbox choice gone bad

Made a lunchbox choice at 6:15am, but at 7:30am, time to enter school, realized you made a wrong choice. Ever happened to you? It happened to my biggest boy this morning. He sees me putting his lunch together around 6:15am and says, “I wanna use the Mickey Mouse wunch box, wike I used in Ms.Wadell’s (Ladell) class, (last school year) not the Olaf wunch box today.” I adhere to his request, packing his items for lunch into the specified lunch box. Our morning continues as routine. Load car. Drop little brother off at preschool. Head to elementary school. Pull into parking spot, 7:25ish, and a declaration comes forth from my biggest boy, in the back seat. “I DON’T want the Mickey Mouse wunch box today!!” I reply with the apology you’d expect, offering every explanation that comes to mind: it’s too late to change your mind, you can take the other lunch box tomorrow, etc. Nothing worked. Redirection attempts ensued. Hurry, let’s get to class before the bell rings. Let’s have a great day so I can write a smiley face on your calendar (Reward system at home). Still, nothing got his mind off the “wunch box”. So, I try movement. “Let’s get out of the car”, forcing a smile to my face, in an effort to maintain patience with my biggest boy. With movement, I sing whatever words come to mind about going to school and listening to your mom. P moves out of the car, shaking his head “no” the whole time. We walk to the door of the school. He says, “I not goin in. I dont want Mickey Mouse wunch box!”, as he refuses to take the lunchbox from my extended hand. I see the minutes passing. I reply, “P, the only other option you have is one of my garbage bags from the car.” P says, “Alright, I want dat!”. So, that’s what he got. Mom conceded the battle. P won the “fight”. But look at the smile on his face. He joyfully walked into school; I turned to walk back to my car, as the words from my morning’s devotion rang through my head. Be more like Christ. Don’t place your rights above what Christ commands–patience. My biggest boy helped me exercise patience this morning. I definitely needed the lesson. God gave me a really cute teacher. So thankful for him.

First blog post: Beginning again

How do I begin here? Literally. For starters, I had a blog and my first post was in September 2010. In that post, I shared my firstborn son’s (my biggest boy) birth story. It was a lot like many birth stories, except that his chromosome count totals 47, instead of 46. That’s because my biggest boy, P, has Down syndrome, also known as Trisomy 21, signifying a third chromosome on the 21st pair in every cell of his body. I’m going to publish that original post, if I can figure out how, because it was the first piece of my heart after his birth. My initial, raw emotions. The important thing I want to say about my first post is that my understanding and perspective has grown as my son has grown and because of his life, I can see things differently, and in some ways, better than I did on that day when I first wrote, holding an 8 pound 6-week-old baby, full of love for him and his chromosomes but empty of sleep and searching to find my bearings. My days with P are gifts, even hard moments are times I’d never want removed from our story. I began my blog in those early days to bring positiveness to raising a child with DS. I published a few times and then I quit. I would go back to my blog periodically, but I couldn’t get to a place where I felt like the words I typed had any meaning for anyone other than myself. So, I’d delete and click “logout”. After some time, it occurred to me that the name of my blog didn’t fit like I thought it did in those early days. It was “things unseen”, taken from scripture that actually addresses spiritual warfare, clearly not the same as raising my P. So, I unpublished my old posts and tried to delete the thing so it wouldn’t exist anymore, but I didn’t have time to figure that part out. However, the thing of a blog page continues to weigh on my mind. As does the fact that there are indeed “bad” days and moments in raising my son, a thought I set out to extinguish for the world in my first blog endeavor, hoping my efforts would save some mother out there from not wanting to give her baby a chance. My limited-to-6-years mothering experience with P and my littlest boy has led me to this thought: there are good days and bad days with any child, even children with Down syndrome who are stereotypically “always happy”; HOWEVER, the fact that there are even “days” of any kind with that child is a precious gift. A gift for some that ends way too soon without a warning at all. So, with that in mind, here I am. Sharing my honesty. Sharing my experience, not intended to be the same as yours. And sharing my biggest, bright boy. My bright boy probably isn’t like your bright boy or girl, and that’s ok. After all, he’s mine. Navigating the day-in, day-out events in raising a child with needs a little different from other kids is well, different. But it’s also unifying. Because there’s a whole community of parents out there who know from experience that daycares and schools are not one-size-fits-all. And that finding the perfect toy for your child’s birthday doesn’t always mean you go by the manufacturer’s recommended age level. And that the best kids’ shoe brand is the one that has a footbed wide enough for the brace to fit in it. And the parents who know all these things and more stick together. To encourage each other. To give a warm smile when everyone else stares. And to share experiences. Not because we are all the same, Heavens, no. But because regardless of our paths, we know the joy that comes in the road less-traveled and the nuggets of wisdom that are gained through differences. I won’t please everyone, but I will share about being “Mommy” to my bald, bright, and beautiful P and our days together, along with his dad and his brother.