Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Early Intervention My Way

I've been thinking, after the last post, about how to make therapy fit into our parenting style.  How can we be low-key and child-led while working on the skills our therapists recommend?  Somehow writing these things down in a list makes me feel a little bit more like I'm still in control of parenting my own child.

  • Limit the flashy toys.  Our PT brings bags full of bright, flashy, noisy toys.  There are buttons to push and lights and music.  I watch Max respond to these toys, and at first I was tempted to go out and buy a bunch of them.  I’m not a purist—we’ve got our share of noisy, plastic toys around here.  But I’m trying to convince myself that I am not doing him any damage by doing the same exercises with quieter toys.  Or heck, even with non-toys like wooden spoons, burp cloths, Toby’s squirmy nose, etc.  He responds a bit more slowly, but that’s okay because…
  • Slow it down.  During an hour long PT session, Max works hard.  The therapist has him looking and grabbing and rolling and sitting and… whew, it’s a workout.  When we practice skills on our own, I try to move more slowly.  I give him a bit more space to try to do skills on his own before I support him.  I linger between exercises to let him enjoy what he's holding or watching, or to give me time to carry on conversations with other people.  I try to make it more about hanging out together and less about doing a set of exercises.
  • Leave space for Max's reactions.  It’s always hard, as a parent, not to shower your kid with praise—clearly my children are most clever, adorable children ever, and they deserve praise!  But I want to leave some space for them to enjoy their accomplishments on their own.  I’ve also seen, especially with special needs kids, how praise can become condescending.  Max gets lots of excited praise from therapists and doctors.  When we’re doing things on our own I try to tone it down a bit.  There are still lots of smiles and cuddles, I want to make it fun.  But I want to get in the habit now of not using over-the-top external praise as a motivator.
  • Know when life is better therapy than therapy.  Many times I sit down with Max ready to do some of his exercises, and I’m thwarted by something better coming along.  There’s no reason to practice sit ups when what he really wants to do is strain his neck up higher to watch Toby bouncing around.  If Max is already grabbing his blanket and stuffing it in his mouth there’s no need to dangle a flashing toy in front of his face.  Before I sat down to write, I was going to practice some rolling with Max.  But instead, he started doing his own little half-roll to try to reach a toy.  While I’m typing he’s rolling from his tummy to his side to grab the toy, then pulling back up onto his belly, then realizing that he can’t reach the toy anymore and doing it again.  I’m guessing that self-motivated, independent, half rolls are more useful than me coaxing him into assisted full rolls.
If we're going to make this pattern of therapists and goals and IFSPs sustainable, then it's going to have to be authentic, it's going to have to fit into our lives.  For me, it helps me settle into our family's patterns by reflecting on how the professional help and our daily lives interact.  I'm sure I'll be revisiting these ideas and adding things to this list as we go along.


  1. Max is a lucky kid to have such a thoughtful momma!!! (also we have that same monkey toy haha)

  2. It sounds great! I don't like flashy toys, even if they are engaging.

  3. You have to figure out how to make therapy work in your life. I remember being there not too long ago and finding that balance. Figuring out how it fits into your world. Looks like you are doing great and coming to that place much quicker than I did! It is a process for sure, a road which I am still trying to figure out daily. :)

  4. I love this approach. We had a rule at our house-no batteries for babies. If it couldn't function without them, we regifted it to someone who would appreciate it. Rhythm instruments, pots & pans, banging wood with hammers...all good. Electronic beeps..bad (at my house.) You'd never know it, the way my kids are hooked into their screens, but at least I had my version of peace when I was in control of it.