Tuesday, October 4, 2011

31 for 21: Vada's Team; Therapists and Friends-Pt.1

You have been introduced to "Team Vada", now let me introduce you to Vada's Team.

Yesterday was Vada's 6 month therapy review. Every six months we meet here in our home with all of Vada's therapist and we go over her progress, possible set backs, future goals and we set our new six month plan into action.

When you have a child who has Down syndrome or any form of special needs it is important to provide that child with every learning opportunity possible in order for them to successfully reach milestones and goals. To ensure this you MUST be willing to work with professionals in the areas where your child may need a little extra support and guidance.

Kim (second lady on the left), Vada's Physical Therapist (PT) has been working with Vada almost from the moment we brought Vada home. It may sound sad but besides Vada's sisters, Kim was Vada's first "friend". I however, do look at this as a sad thing. I am grateful that Kim is the kind and caring person that she is. Vada likes her and the two work well together and get a lot accomplished during their sessions.

The importance of Physical Therapy with infants and children who have Down syndrome is to help the child to learn to move his or hers body approprately. Children born with Down syndrome typically have some form of Hypotonia also known as low muscle tone.  With out Physical Therapy many children with Hypotonia will adjust their movements to compensate for their low muscle tone, which can also lead to the child walking in a way that is not postually correct. Therefore, it is of the utmost importance to have a Physical Therapist who is trained, experienced and knowledgeable in the distinct musculoskeletal differences of a child who has Down syndrome and of a child who does not.

Vada's second therapist, Sara (second lady from the right), is Vada's Feeding and Speech Therapist. Children who have Down syndrome may have smaller mouths making less room in their mouths for their tongue, in combinations with hypotonia a child may have different set backs and struggles when it comes to feeding and speech. Since eating and communication are an important part of everyone's daily lives it is important to work on different skills to make feeding and speaking easier.

When it comes to Speech therapy, people don't only communicate through speaking but also through facial expressions, gestures and sign language. Typically, all infants with and without Down syndrome learn to use one of the alternative methods before speaking. However, when is comes to children who have Down syndrome (typically) they tend to learn to be receptive much quicker than they learn to be expressive. Meaning a child or infant with Down syndrome will learn what you are saying and understand the meaning before they are able to communicate their own wants and needs.

Vada has a few words that she uses verbally but she has learned to do a couple of signs and  gestures, like turning her head away when she doesn't want something. Her receptive skills are amazing, she really seems to understand most of what I am telling her. As of recently I have noticed her getting more frustrated when she is trying to communicate with me. Therefore, I have decided to really focus on signing more. I am hoping to help her learn more signs quicker, so that she can communicate with us easier than she is now.

If you have a child with Down syndrome, more than likely he or she will need some form of speech therapy and that's okay. Its important to get the evaluation early on and to start the therapy as soon as recommended . Speech therapy for individuals with Down syndrome is a bit different than speech therapy for other reasons. For this reason, again, you need to make sure that the therapist you choose is knowledgeable  in "normal" or "typical" speech development patterns as well as speech development that happens in people who have Down syndrome.

On a side note, gross and fine motor skills are the first steps to developing good speech patterns as well as learning vocal language. It is important to have these forms of therapy going in conjunction with the speech therapy.

Feeding difficulties in individuals with Down syndrome may be caused by a number of reasons combined or one specific reason. Some individuals have sensory sensitivity issues, the motor skills may be delayed, there may be other medical issues that are causing the child to have set backs or the physical structure of the mouth may create some difficulties as well.

When I was pregnant I was told that Vada probably wouldn't be able to breastfeed. The doctors just assumed that she would have such poor muscle tone that she would be unable to figure it out. That theory in combination with her weak heart would make it next to impossible for her thrive. I didn't know much about Down syndrome at this point in my pregnancy but even at that moment I thought that they were full of poo! I was appalled that they hadn't even met my daughter and yet they had already wrote her capabilities off. It was complete nonsense to me.

When Vada was born, before she ever had heart surgery as soon as she was able to have "food",  I attempted to nurse her and she latched right on! I breastfed Vada until she was seventeen months old and she nursed like a champ! Maybe its true that not all babies who have Down syndrome will be able to breastfeed but you never know what your child is capable of unless try.

For Vada eating solid foods was an issue mainly because she only wanted to be breastfed. She had all of the skills that she needed to be a good solid food eater, only she wouldn't swallow her food. When I had my tonsillectomy, about two months ago, she had to go without being breastfed and since she would not take a bottle (never really would) she was kind of pushed into eating solid foods. Although she didn't need too much persuasion.

Tomorrow I will share a little about Occupational and developmental therapy. :)

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