Therapy and Other
My little boy finally learned to sit at 17 months of age, but was very wobbly. The thing that got him using his hands confidently and sitting was an inflatable rubber ring around his tummy. It meant that he could lean over and know that whichever way he went, he couldn't fall over and hit his head. It gave him the confidence he needed. On a very hypotonic or dystonic day, we still use it. It is inexpensive and worth every penny! - A.K.R., Surrey, UK
Our grandson is severely delayed and from time to time, he becomes very upset to the point of being inconsolable. We've found that by placing him on a back massage pad on the floor and turning it on a low setting, it will often calm him. - R.W., city and state unknown
When buying shoes for either school or dress to go over AFOs or any brace, try PayLess Shoes. Most styles come in extra wide and are fairly cheap. If you find a size and shoe that works, buy the next 2-3 sizes larger. That way, you will have shoes that work for the next pair of braces and wont have to go looking for them again. - C.G., Grapeland, TX
If your child can not sit up without slipping, get shelf liner and cut a piece to fit on his chair, shopping cart, stroller, etc. It stops them from slipping forward. - Initials, city and state unknown
I work with children who have autism, and was recently stumped when a 6 year old child I was working with had become self injurious and out of control. She was severely injuring herself and responded to nothing I did to try to stop her. She had become so upset that I, a 5'-10'' female, was unable to hold her due to her incredible strength. After weeks of this with nothing successful from the numerous people we had contacted for help, her mother had an idea. She bought her a full childs hockey suit (chest pad, helmet, boxing gloves, shin guards, etc.). When she began a fit, I would suit her up until she calmed down and asked to take it off. She would continue the fits at first, although she couldn't hurt herself; after a few days, all I had to do was pick up the bag it was in and she would stop. She was aware that the suit would not let her accomplish her fit and gave up. The severe fits soon ceased and on the rare occasion one would flare up, we were able to stop it before it began, simply by motioning to the suit; and No More Injuries! - Initials, city and state unknown
My 4 year old daughter has cerebral palsy, agenesis of corpus collasum, alpha 1 anti-trypsen deficiency, etc. Anyway, she loves oral motor stimulation. I have found that when she is frustrated or needs to pay attention to something, giving her a toothbrush to chew on really helps her calm down and focus. It provides that stimulation and cleans her teeth at the same time. I never leave home without it. - D.P., Goshen, Ohio
To help my son with autism learn, we came up with a few tips: We use the closed caption on our TV and turn the volume lower. It's amazing how many words he's learned! We also use the time in the car by having kids books on tape playing almost constantly. He holds the books, and I keep the tapes near me in the driver's area. I ordered many from Scholastic order forms that came home with him in his backpack from school. You can read books into a tape recorder and make your own for almost no cost!! Also, we use a magna doodle toy in the car and write the next destination, so he always knows where he's going!! Finally, we made audio tapes of common household noises (toilet flushing, garbage disposal, garage door opening, door bell, ball bouncing, coughing, whistling and knocking, etc.). He listens to the tape and identifies the sounds and voices. He likes guessing what comes next! - L.D., Warrensburg, MO
Madeline is always left in her wheelchair to access her talker or anything else which needs her headswitch, and she gets fed up with this being her only chair. She has a jellybean switch which she uses occasionally, and a special armchair which she could be in, but never uses her talker or computer. After a little bit of thought, and Maddie making it obvious she wanted both her talker and the armchair, I used some self-adhesive Velcro and a length of wide elastic. I measured the elastic to go around the arm of her chair and sewed it into a loop. Then I used the Velcro on her jellybean and the corresponding bit on the elastic. She has been a very happy girl since getting both her talker and sitting in her chair. - T.H., Bristol, UK
I have a tip regarding vocabulary enhancement. A friend with a "normal" infant cut out various magazine pictures, very simple and bold, then labeled them underneath in lower case letters. Then she went through them with her daughter before bed each night. I was shocked that her eight month-old could point to all the pictures they'd been going over for a while, even though she couldn't yet speak. So I tried that with Rachel, and it has unbelievably increased her receptive vocabulary; and she enjoys it. If she sees the stack of pictures, she'll bring them to me and drag me to the couch to read them. - S.M., Fairfax Station, VA
We learned at the Center for Speech and Language in Elmhurst, IL to make a list of what is going to happen next. This is most useful when we want our son to go out and to go places in which he has no interest. Sometimes the list begins with something like putting on his shoes. It goes: 1., 2., 3., etc., with the last item something he would like to do if possible. - M.B., Walnut, CA
A hammock swing is one of the best purchases we ever made. We hang it with both ends together, so he can choose to swing like a conventional swing, or we can lay him inside it and he is completely "closed" off! He also likes the pressure of swinging on his stomach.
A beanbag chair is another great therapy tool for us. Our son enjoys laying under it, as well as having "snuggle" time in the beanbag with his mom, while watching a video. He likes to be able to arrange it around his body.
Ankle and wrist weights are wonderful for hyperactive, and hyper-aroused children. Our son wears both when we want to take him to a store. They really do help to calm him. Once he puts them on, he doesn't want to take them off! His occupational therapist named them the "Superman bracelets!" - M.M., Rosemount, MN
In the 14 years I've been working with my son, we've tried many, many things that did not help him. For parents whose children cannot sit up or are otherwise afflicted with CP, please consider doing the one thing that definitely DID help us: a neurological stimulation program involving (among many other things) daily sessions of creeping. (For children who cannot creep, start by putting them at the top of a very smooth inclined plane that is so steep that any movement will help propel them forward. Offer a tempting object at the bottom. A banana worked for my son.) Keep building up for more ability, and make your kid a winner. You can get ideas from the books by Glenn Doman. Please consider making the effort. My son is still developmentally disabled, but at least no one would say he had cerebral palsy any longer. He went from total immobility at 20 months to taking his first independent steps at 39 months and walking 4 miles nonstop a year later. - S.G., San Diego, CA
The time in the car can be put to good use if you practice your speech therapy sounds with every red light! Keep an unbreakable mirror handy if needed, and maybe even a list of sounds on the back of your visor for easy reference. - V.C., Kennebunk, ME
For my son, who has very poor muscle control, we were trying to teach him to sit up and get head control at 9 months of age. So we put him in a bathtub seat (one that would normally go in a bathtub to keep them sitting in one place) on the kitchen floor and proceeded to blow bubbles at him. He was so excited to see the bubbles that he was looking up and eventually got his head control. Then, we kept it up so that he got control of his back and started to lift one hand to try to pop the bubbles. We said "pop" each time one popped that he could see. Then we started to catch a bubble for him to pop. Eventually, he was able to let go with both hands and pop the bubbles and he even learned to say "pop." This taught him his balance for sitting up when we sat him on the floor and then he was able to learn how to get to that position by himself shortly after that. - T.C., city unknown, AL
My two year old son has cerebral palsy and cortical vision impairment. To help stimulate and encourage him to use his vision, I tie a Mylar balloon loosely around his wrist within his vision range. Every time he moves his hand, the balloon wiggles and the bright, shiny colors of the balloon catch his attention visually. - P.P., Guys Mills, PA
Our daughter is 11 years old, and does not walk, but likes to knee walk. She is very unstable, and even though she wears a helmet, we felt we couldn't leave her alone in a room. We bought a large, 3 ring blow up pool (the outdoor kind) and it's now in our livingroom. We have a bean bag in there, and it acts like a big play pen if we are busy and can't watch her. She is unable to climb out. This also works well for messy diapers (saves the carpet). We are awaiting funding for a Vail bed, but in the meantime, another pool with additional padding on the bottom, acts as her bed. She was not safe in a conventional bed, even with rails. This has worked out well for us, and is fairly inexpensive. - P.L., Kalamazoo, MI
When Adam was 15 months, he had severe sensory integration issues. He was in speech therapy three times per week. I remember the therapist telling me I should begin to put the NUK toothbrush into Adams mouth. This was my biggest nightmare; HOW could I do that? Adam has a hyper gag reflex and later we found out he has reflux. Slowly I introduced the NUK: First to have him visually tolerate seeing it, next near his mouth, and then I touched his lips with the NUK. Things were progressing slowly, and the time came for IN THE MOUTH. But nothing I did or tried worked until... Tapioca pudding. That NUK went into his mouth so fast my head spun. He began to use it as his spoon, and now he loves to brush his teeth. - J.G., Highland Park, IL
For children whose arms fly back in the "W" position when in a wheelchair: We drilled holes into the far corners of our daughter's wheelchair tray and added upright dowels, about 6" high, with a screw going through the hole. Then I made wrist bands out of padded fabric and velcro, to fit her. I looped some thick dressmakers' elastic through the wrist guards and around the posts. The elastic still allows her to raise her arms into a "W," but reminds her to hold them down. She was losing internal rotation in her shoulders because of this problem. Now, rotation is fine and her arms are down most of the time, with or without the guards. - E.F., city and state unknown
My child, Chris, first received speech therapy when he was 2 ½ years old. He had never said his name before, however, in his second session, the therapist got him to say his name with the following trick: she told him, "Let's write our names!" She wrote her name and said it enthusiastically. Then she said, enthusiastically, "Okay, let's write your name! I'll help you the first time." She helped him hold the pencil and draw a fast line, saying "Chris! Now you do it!" He obliged by laughing, and drawing a line while saying, "Chris!" I cried. He's been saying it ever since. - A.P., Chattanooga, TN
My 10 year old daughter has cerebral palsy and developmental delays. She can not sit unassisted; she can not sit on the floor with her sisters and be a part of what is going on. I got this idea from the parallel bars tip (thanks J.A.C.). I made her a sitting device, out of PVC pipe, so she can sit up on the floor without my help. I measured her from side to side (giving an inch extra for padding), used 3-way joints to make a square all the way around her, and used pipe (on the bottom) that faces outward to prevent tipping. I padded the device with the noodles that you get for the swimming pool (I sliced one side so it would slip over the PVC pipe). She can now sit up in the middle of the floor with her sisters, and she feels like such a big girl now. She is learning her balance more and more. - C.M., Taft, CA
My son's occupational therapist is trying to help him get a better sense and use of his fingers. He has a hereditary type II sensory neuropathy, does not feel sensation in his hands, and is prone to frequent skin infections. She has taught him to use the "15" method. He wets his hands with warm water, squirts on anti-bacterial liquid soap, then washes each finger individually (that's 10), and then the palm and back of each hand (thats 4 more), and once all over (thats 1 more, to make a total of 15). It is also a good counting game and makes sure he washes for 15 seconds, at least most of the time. - J.N., Minneapolis, MN
This tip is for those of you who do sensory integration therapy. Tupperware came out with a new stackable set of containers that has one lid. It has three containers and we put rice in one, corn in another, and noodles in another. They stack on top of one another and seal wonderfully. No more rice all over. - T.R., Dickinson, ND
When Kristen was beginning to sit in a high chair we found she would slip down in it because she could not hold herself in it. We had one of the Graco plastic chairs with the slippery seats. The back was great for support but she'd slide out! So we put an empty hot water bottle under her butt to hold her in. It did the trick. - K.P., city and state unknown
My 4 year old son has CP, but this would be useful for any child who benefits from the expensive parallel bars for therapy. We put together long pieces of PVC pipe and built a rectangular frame. Using the PVC elbows and connectors, we constructed a very stable set of parallel bars for under $30. We glued all the pieces together with PVC sealer, except for the vertical pieces (which fitted tightly) so that we could attach longer pieces as he grew taller. I added a bar below the top bar to make it more stable. I did this by using the PVC "T". We also spray painted them so as not to be such an eye sore and added stickers as time went on. We have had a great experience. - J.A.C., Louisville, KY
When working on your childs balance, try sitting them in your laundry basket surrounded by towels or small pillows. They can also hold onto the sides if you get a small round or square basket. They also make great toy boxes for small toys. - C.H., Spring, TX
For a baby or child who needs a wedge or wedges of various sizes for positioning, my friend whose child needs a lot of support, came up with the idea of buying looseleaf binders which come in many sizes and widths. She wraps the binder in a towel or towels and secures it with duct tape. She then sews a cover for it - an easy one can be made out of a pillow case. Attach velcro to the ends for closure. The cover can then be easily removed for cleaning. - J.S., Brooklyn, NY
My daughter constantly mouths her hands. She would spend all her waking hours doing this and nothing else! Over the years, we have tried everything to stop her. Splinting her arms is the only option. Splints that occupational therapists came up with looked very surgical and were extremely hot. I came up with the idea of using wrist guards for rollerbladers on her elbows. I took out the supporting piece of plastic and turned it around to fit the natural curve of her arm. They are as comfortable as splints can be, and look sort of sporty too! - L.B., city and state unknown
Our son drools constantly. Our occupational therapist suggested that we have him drink out of a straw to improve his sucking and swallowing abilities. So, we put yogurt in a glass and let him suck the yogurt through the straw. He has to suck a lot harder then if he was sucking water from a straw. It has improved his sucking and swallowing, and his drooling is beginning to show signs of improvement. - C.D., Canyon Country, CA
My daughter has no balance. When she is in her high chair or play chair, she is always leaning to one side. Rolled up receiving blankets no longer support her, so I came up with something better. I bought a foam noodle (pool toy) and cut it down into several pieces. Now, when she is in her chair, I put one on each side and she sits perfectly straight. - L.B., Santa Clarita, CA
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