Monday, August 27, 2012

The Amazing Therapy Swing

A few months ago my Dad built a small platform swing for Juliana. The inspiration was a therapy swing that is very commonly used in both Physical and Occupational Therapy. It looks like this:

My little platform swing is a little rough around the edges compared to this one. However my little swing was built for about 10% of the cost (roughly $20). We installed eye hooks in our basement so that we can hang up this swing or a regular swing down the line (maybe when it gets cold outside). I gave these instructions to my Dad, but mind the measurements as this swing is smaller than the one used in therapy clinics.

The swing has been incredible for Juliana. We generally use it twice a day, sometimes for 10 or 15 minutes at a time. She loves it and she is also really challenged by it. It's hard work to lay on your stomach and hold your head up so that you can look around the room! It also really helps with vision (she has a slight strabismus) because you have to focus on objects as you are flying around. That requires some serious visual coordination. As if that weren't enough, it also is part of her sensory diet and helps meets her vestibular needs

Watch her in action:

After a month or so of using the swing daily I began to notice a marked improvement in her neck and back strength. Whereas before she could look up and look around for 10 or 15 seconds at a time, now she could do it for whole minutes at a time. Whereas before she would easily tire, now she could swing for 20 minutes and spend most of the time looking around with only brief breaks. 

A week or so ago I began to notice that she was getting much higher off the ground when she rolled over. On one of these rolling occasions I helped support her hip and encouraged her to sit up. And presto, she did it! She sometimes requires the leverage on her hip and other times she is able to do it on her own. Watch her here:

That was exciting! But tonight was even more exciting. She was playing on her stomach when I noticed that she was trying to push up with her arms. She has never done this before (not unassisted, anyway). She was trying to get up on all fours but she wasn't quite figuring out how to coordinate the movement. She was so proud of herself! And I was ecstatic as this sort of pre-crawling activity is something that I have been looking forward to for a long time. We caught some of it on video:

I've been feeling for awhile that we were 'due' some developmental leaps. Motor skills progress has been at a standstill for months and I still largely attribute this to sensory issues. Prior to just recently Juliana was completely unwilling to attempt such movements even when aided. 

Our swing has truly been invaluable. I would happily hang it in the middle of my living room if I didn't have a basement. I hope to add a few more homemade swings to our collection, ripping off ideas from the many various therapy swings available for sale.  Calvin also enjoys the swing but in a much more passive way as it is not something he craves the way that Juliana does.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

A year later...

I was recently looking through an old notebook and found the following:

Juliana plan

1.) Discourage vomiting by smaller, more frequent bolus feeds. Start with 40ml bolus, about once an hour. Be careful of sensitive times of day, 2am-11am.
This was back when vomiting was common and it seemed to be easy to overfeed her. I sometimes wondered if she had delayed gastric emptying. Maybe she did.

2.) Work on gag reflex by playing more with mouth.
This was because she would gag spontaneously sometimes which would ultimately lead to vomiting. Her mouth needed desensitization. 

3.) Continue to spoon feed and offer liquids.
She was just starting to get used to small amounts of food and drink.

4.) Burp her so that she gets used to it.
Burping frequently led to vomiting.

I'm amazed by the amount of healing that can happen in a year's time. Someone once told me that natural healing is a slow process and it turns out that unfortunately this is a true statement. There was no quick fix. There was no magic pill. Doctors, unfortunately, were useless. It was a long, slow, difficult process. Now it's hard to believe that this little girl used to be 100% tube-fed.

Chicken wings - her favorite!

Egg drop soup - also a favorite!
These days I am not so concerned about Juliana's diet or her feeding skills. Both are in pretty good shape. I have new worries, of course: the sensory issues she has with her limbs (she lacks some awareness), lack of appropriate mobility (she can roll with the best of them but I want more), the fact that she still doesn't transition to/from a sitting position (though she can do this with only minimal assistance). At this point I am only mildly concerned about her speech and I try not to compare her to her super-verbal brother. Hopefully in a year from now these concerns, like the concerns listed above, will no longer be on my radar.