Every baby is a gift, even if the wrapping is a little different.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Occupational Therapy

I took my son in for his occupational therapy evaluation a couple of days ago. When he was an infant, the physical therapist said he didn't need OT so I never thought too much about it. His speech therapist suggested we have him evaluated for OT now that he's older.

I researched OT trying to figure out what it meant, how it helped, what skills it developed. I found that OT is dedicated to helping individuals learn to live in their environment. It helps people learn to feed themselves, dress themselves, use pencils, crayons, scissors, and be able to adapt to their surroundings.

My son has been feeding himself for a couple of years (except, of course, when he doesn't want to eat what I've fixed him). He can dress and undress himself. He loves to find his sister's shoes and wear them. And, his favorite is to wear nothing at all, so I'd say he's much better at undressing himself.

He also draws and colors. I prefer when he does it on paper, but he doesn't limit himself to that, he likes to draw on the walls, floors, doors, even the refrigerator. Sometimes, he even likes to color himself. He can draw lines, circles, squiggles. He likes to use different crayons to add color. In fact, if I give him a pad of paper and some crayons, it'll keep him busy for a long time.

Unfortunately, he can also use scissors as his sister found out when he snipped a rather large piece of hair off her head. Many years ago, after my oldest son cut his sister's hair off (she had to wear a ponytail for almost a year to hide the damage) I have insisted that scissors and preschoolers don't mix.

The OT tested him with things like stacking blocks (he stacks blocks all the time, but his favorite is to stack cans of vegetables at the top of our stairs and then send the cans careening down to the basement), drawing, using scissors, threading beads, picking up beads, and folding paper. He didn't know how to fold the paper, but the other tests he did well. In fact, the OT said he has very strong hands and has amazing skills. She attributed it to having so many older siblings.

The best news is that he didn't qualify for OT. Other than working on better scissor control and folding a paper, he's where he should be and is age-appropriate. I thought he would be, but I was glad to have a professional determine that as well. I'm all for having services he needs, but I want those services to really benefit him, not have services just because he has Down syndrome.

Now, if only we can get him talking more and using the toilet, I'll be a happy mama.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

My Mexican Jumping Bean

Yesterday morning I got my son up and fed him a big breakfast. Sometimes, when he's hungry he grinds his teeth. Last week at his speech therapy session he started grinding his teeth and twisting his hair even though he'd had breakfast and a snack. I was puzzled that he was hungry so quickly, but assumed he was just very hungry that morning. I wanted to prevent it this week so we could focus on his session and not his hunger, so I gave him extra food and even brought more for the ride to town.

On our drive to town he was fine, but as soon as we walked into the therapy building, he started to grind his teeth and twist his hair. It dawned on me that he wasn't doing it because he was hungry, it was because he was stressed. I guess the strange environment and an unfamiair person in this setting makes him stressed. I'm hoping he'll get over it as we work more with the therapist. He seemed to warm up by the end of the session so that's a good sign.

The therapist was giving me some advice to help my son use more speech. She encouraged me to let him be a boy. She said I should let him run around, jump on things, and crawl around because that would encourage him to talk. I stared at her. laughing to myself, and wondering if she was for reals. This kid regularly chases, and usually tackles, his older sister, much to her dismay. He jumps on the trampoline, runs around the backyard, and plays on the swingset whenever he can get outside (usually after he's let one of the outside cats into the house to jump up on the stove and eat the hamburger I'm cooking--but that's another story). He jumps all the time--piles up pillows so he can jump into them, jumps on the couch (even though it's against the house rules), and jumps up and down the stairs. In fact, if he's holding hands with people while walking somewhere he "counts" and then on three, he jumps. If you aren't expecting it, he can almost take you down to the ground. He jumps so much he reminds of a Mexican Jumping Bean.

So, yes, I do let him be a boy. He's extremely active. I don't think lack of activity contributes at all to his speech delay. In fact, if activity were tied to his speech, he'd be speaking like a college professor. I know the therapist meant well, she wants his verbal skills to improve, as do I, but sometimes, I have to wonder about what therapists say. I think if she'd stopped to think for a second, she'd have realized that with nine siblings not only is he active, but my entire house is in constant commotion.

Friday, October 8, 2010


I enrolled my son in a community gymnastics class to help him strengthen his muscles, learn to better follow directions, and to interact with other adults and  kids (I'm a super cool mom, but once in a while I think he gets tired of only playing with me :) ).

He did really well. He isn't the bravest soul so when it came time to walk across the balance beam (which is about 3 inches off the ground) he hung onto his teacher for dear life. He had a great time raising his arms up and down while following the class around the gym. He loved jumping. In fact, he now jumps more than he walks. He likes to count to three and then jump, especially when we're walking somewhere and are trying to hurry.

He wasn't too sure about the rope swing at first, but he seemed to be an expert by the end of the class, grasping onto the rope and then dropping a few feet into a big, cushiony mat.

I think his favorite activity was climbing through the tube. He kept wanting to go back and do that.

He did need some additional instruction and guidance to stay in line and not skip over the other kids so he could keep taking his turn over and over again. He isn't as good at responding to verbal instruction as he is to having someone show him what to do. But, once he gets it, he does pretty well.

Most of all, he's having fun. His little face lights up and he has a huge smile as he participates in this little gymnastics class and that's all I need to tell me he loves it.