Saturday, March 26, 2011

Which Walker is Best?

Just because they named it a walker doesn’t mean it will help facilitate independent walking for your child. There are no studies that support the idea that putting your child with Down syndrome in a walker will help him to reach that milestone sooner. In fact there is some evidence that shows that children who use walkers actually learn to walk on their own later than their peers.

Pros & Cons of Walkers
Like any baby contraption that has a seat and some toys attached, a walker can be useful when you need to put your child in a safe, entertaining place while you answer the phone or cook dinner.

If your child is not ready for a walker, there are risks involved with putting him in one. A walker allows your child to bear weight on his joints that he may not be ready for if he does not have the core strength and stability to handle it. These abnormal forces on the joints can cause damage and can also teach your child patterns of posture and movement that are not typical for his development. Most walkers interfere with the child’s ability to see his legs and feet and therefore hinder his ability to receive important motor information about how his body works.

Having your child in a walker for long periods of time can also hamper sensory motor development because it controls what the child can “go for” and puts a barrier between the child and the world around him.

When a Child Can Benefit from a Walker
If your child has the desire to be up and moving around and can walk along the couch or coffee table, or can walk while holding on to a push toy, or can walk while you are holding his hands, yet cannot walk independently due to trouble with balance, susceptibility to fatigue, or some other underlying cause for delay, he might benefit from a therapeutic posterior walker.

walkerA posterior walker provides the support and mobility a child needs to be able to walk around, yet does not inhibit proper gross motor and sensory development. A posterior walker should be introduced to your child by a trained physical therapist and his time using it must be closely monitored by a caregiver or therapist.

Ok, So...
Now that you may have changed your mind about buying a commercial walker, you might want to throw the big question out there, “When should my baby walk?” There is a very large age range for this skill and many factors determine when it comes. Some children with Ds start walking as early as 14 months, others are over the age of 4 before they master it. So unless a doctor or therapist has indicated that there may be a secondary cause for delayed walking, be patient... it will come. And, for those times you need to confine your child for his safety (or your sanity), stick with an exersaucer or playpen.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Back in the Saddle

My blog “maternity leave” is officially over... and while I was away so much has been happening in your world. There have been lots of pregnancies, births, and adoptions, many new blogs and new blog addresses, new resources and goodies, and lots of new questions.

So where should I start? First off, if you are pregnant with a baby who has been diagnosed with Down syndrome, if you had or adopted a baby with Ds over the last 10 months or so, or if you have a new blog or blog changes, please email me so we can share your stories.

I have been reading many blogs, catching up with new little ones... and I am reminded of how much milestones seem to matter to us parents in the beginning. We are nervous and wondering how this new child will fare... we still believe that hitting those early marks is important, a sign of how well our baby will “function”. We still have so much to learn and so much to let go of.

With that in mind, I will repost the very first ds.mama post “Stage Not Age”. The link to the development journal has been updated, so if you have already read this post and could not get your copy, try again.

Stage Not Age

One of the first things to get over when you have a newborn with Down syndrome is looking for milestones based on your baby’s age. We have all heard stories about so-and-so’s baby who held his head up before the placenta was delivered and walked at six months old. Most of us have read some form of a What to Expect book and have a general idea of how old a baby is when certain things happen. Flush that knowledge from your mind and try not to pay too much attention to Mrs. So-and-so.

Babies with Down syndrome develop along the same path as a typical baby, meaning they reach most milestones in developmental order but they do it on their own schedule. They also have a lot more milestones to celebrate. Who knew there were a zillion sensory and gross-motor skills that are reached before a baby rolls over? You are going to need a whole bunch more cute stickers for that First Year Calendar than the measly 10 that came with it.

There is an amazingly detailed resource out there for setting expectations for your baby’s development and tracking your child’s progress from birth through about the first five years. It is called the The Developmental Journal for Babies and Children with Down Syndrome. It is put out by the English government program, Early Support. The material is provided for free online in pdf format. When you see the journal you’ll realize that this group has put a ton of research and effort into this project, and you will be thankful to the Brits for this contribution to your resource arsenal.

The journal includes the five areas of development (communication, social-emotional development, cognition and play, motor and sensory development, and self-help) and is categorized by 11 developmental steps. For each item, there are three columns to track your baby’s progress. There is also room for adding notes and questions.

Enjoy your baby's stages because while they sometimes seem like they'll last forever, they won't. And, make sure you go get your journal!