Today was our first PT appointment, with C, who we met two weeks ago for the PT assessment. The assessment showed that Mer, who was then about 3 1/2 months old, was doing gross-motor skills at about a 2 month old level. Based on that assessment, we have been working especially hard on her head control and on reaching for things above her chest while she's laying flat on her back...and I think it showed today.
It took Mer a little while to get warmed up and focused as she was very interested in checking out this new person in her house. Then, she did slowly start reaching for toys dangling up above her though and did pretty well. (We knew she could--she's been reaching for her feet like crazy lately and loves some new jingly dangles that hang from her play-gym.) This is such a simple looking skill, but its apparently quite difficult because she has to overcome the force of gravity to lift her arms up off the ground.
We also worked on the beginning steps of rolling over from back to belly. C is really good at explaining how we're going to build up to these major skills from some basic foundations. First we learned how to encourage Mer to turn her head to the side to look at a toy. Then, while she's looking in that direction, we can choose to support either her hip or her shoulder and turn it in that direction. If the toy or object she's looking at is motivating to her, such as a mirror, then she will probably bring the other body part in that direction so that she can reach the object. By rotating which body part we support, she will strengthen them both and eventually be able to to roll on to her side on her own.
The red rubber ball that C brought with her was definitely the highlight of the visit though. C showed us how to put Mer on her belly on the ball. We can help her prop herself up and lift her head (like she does on her belly on the floor). Then, we can slowly move the ball from side to side or back to front. We'll know that she is working because her body is staying fairly well balanced, compensating for the motion of the ball, and not just sliding off.
One of the interesting things about having a specialist to work with your child is, well, exactly that. We have someone we can, and I guess should, consult with on the progress Meredith is making and the best way to continue to encourage her. This also can sometimes seem like someone you need to check with before you do something new...like asking your parents' permission to have a cookie. For example, we are SO excited about the little steps Mer is making toward sitting up, with support. We would love to let her spend some time in the Bumbo chair. However, when we asked last week, C encouraged us to wait a little bit until she is bigger and has more head control. This isn't to say that we haven't experimented a little on our own, but we felt a little naughty about it...kinda like stealing a cookie from the jar! Don't tell! :-)
The comforting thing that C reiterated to us today is the ABILITY that children with Down syndrome have. Even if she were not receiving physical therapy, Meredith would eventually learn to sit up and crawl and walk, just like typically developing children. However, therapy will not only help her learn these skills a little faster, but it should also help avoid bad habits that might let her accomplish these tasks but wouldn't strengthen and develop her muscles as she should. For example, she might learn to roll over by reaching for her feet and using the weight of her body to flip onto her side. However, this wouldn't strengthen her abdominal and hip muscles like she would otherwise...and we want to have those muscles strong so that she can use them for other skills in the future.
So, now we will have some fun playing ball this week and working on rolling to the side...and we'll try to take a picture of Meredith exercising on the ball and get it up here soon!