Julie Lyles Carr: Rewiring the Wires

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Rewiring the Wires

Physical and occupational therapy have become the new black around here as we work with 7 of 8's neonatal stroke diagnosis. We are blessed to have quickly found a therapy group that 7 of 8 has bonded nicely with and who have been very supportive of the family being involved in the process.

We are focusing at this point on a few key areas for 7 of 8. The first is weight-bearing activities for her left hand, arm and shoulder. The residual weakness on that side has created a dichotomy of a situation; some muscles are very weak, while others are very tight. We alternate a series of strengthening and stretching exercises.

Some of these exercises are very subtle but are showing big results for 7 of 8.  She is keeping her left hand open more consistently and is not engaging in cortical thumbing (where an older baby keeps their thumb tucked inside their closed fist) much at all any more.  She has been willing to let Miss L., her physical therapist, keep her in weight-bearing positions for the better part of that therapy hour and has remained pretty pleasant about it all.
After an hour of physical therapy, 7 of 8 moves on to occupational therapy.  Some days she cooperates, some days she doesn't as she is tired from the previous hour.  Thankfully, Miss P., her occupational therapist, has come up with some fun ways to distract her and keep her working.
The swing has been a great therapy tool.  7 of 8 is willing to use her left hand to hang on the the rope.  Miss P. will patiently remove her hand from the rope and 7 of 8 will put it back in a correct grasp--huge improvement!

7 of 8 also likes to play 'peek-a-boo' with the swing guard, pushing down the yellow t-bar with her left hand, all to get a glimpse of Miss P.'s smile!

 7 of 8 just got her new splint.  It gently helps keep her hand open and holds her thumb in a better position.  Miss M. has also been helping with massage techniques to release the tension in some of her muscles around her shoulder while getting her oh-so-loose scapula into a better position--all part of occupational therapy techniques.

We learned this a long time ago when we began 4 of 8's Auditory Verbal Therapy and it's been confirmed again through 7 of 8's experience:  therapists who love your child, lavish them with encouragement and affection mixed with equal parts of tough love and high expectations, are a powerful, potent mix in habilitation.   I say 'habilitation' because both of these little girls are having to learn things for the first time with the hurdles of hearing loss in 4 of 8's case and neonatal stroke in 7 of 8's case.  They are not re-learning, they are neo-learning, if you will.  
As with any challenge, it's the amazing people you meet, the incredible love and compassion people have for helping others, the discipline, the patience, the progress, that make these situations radiate their own beauty.  How blessed we are to be entrusted with these precious girls and to experience this incredible process. 
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