Saturday, January 17, 2009

A Little Encouragement From the Peanut Gallery

I have been providing John's physical therapy since birth which gives me great satisfaction for a lot of reasons. Some of which are the bond that we have and I have the satisfaction of teaching him and seeing him learn new things. I often blog about what John and I are working on and his progress which I really enjoy sharing with you all. It gives me a sense of contributing my skills and knowledge which I really miss that part of my job.

Anyway, on one of my posts about the things that John and I are doing, I received a comment from a mom about her child and her feeling of inadequacy in helping that child. Immediately, my heart went out to her and how she must feel at a loss of how to work with her child.

While I understand that not all of us have the same tools and skills of working with children in this fashion, I do not believe that this should be a deterrent from a parent working with their child. There are many things that a parent can provide their children without the formal training of physical therapy. In fact, I believe that the parent should play a vital role in a child's physical therapy for they are with them 24 hours a day/ 7 days a week whereas a Physical Therapist is only with them 2x's/week for 30-45 minutes per session at the most. Not only that, but a parent has a bond with the child that the Therapist will never have and I have worked with people long enough to realize that relationship determines to some extent how much a patient will work with you.

I am not advocating that you go it alone, or go off half cocked without some kind of knowledge as to what you are doing or the goal of treatment. But what I do encourage you as parents do is to take initiative and talk with your Therapist about what you can be doing at home, how to perform the treatment and what are the goals - short term and long term. If you have a Therapist who is not accepting of you getting involved, then maybe you need to find one who is.

As a Therapist, I enjoy educating people on how to rehab themselves when I am not there. Sure, my ego gets in my way at times and I don't educate because I want all the glory and want them to think that I am some kind of miracle worker. But I have learned that that is not in the interest of the patient. One of our jobs, especially with a child who is going to be receiving services long term, is to be a coach to that family or that particular patient. Well, if you think about what a coach does, you will understand that a coach is someone who teaches and supervises.

So I would like to encourage each parent that may feel that your child's physical therapy is better left to the "professionals", take the initiative with your Therapist about how you can get involved in the process. Ask him or her to show you what you can be working on during the days your child has no therapy. Tell them that you want to know what they are doing and why they are doing it and how can I help.

And then as a parent, as someone who loves that child, follow up and do your part. John and I do not have a formal time to do physical therapy. We are performing some kind of physical therapy in everything that we do during the day, whether it is when I am holding him, dancing with him, he is sitting on my lap and I am talking with him, sitting in his Bumbo chair or he is just laying down on his stomach (which we have gotten to the place where he is on his stomach much more than on his back).

Just don't think or let anyone else tell you that you don't have anything to contribute in this area because of your lack of skill or knowledge of the trade. It's not rocket science and it is something that anyone can learn.

And to those of you who are involved in this capacity, good job and keep going. Our children are counting on us as parents. As a parent, I am sure there is no other person who wants that child to excel more than you. Good luck to you.


Ruby's Mom said...

Great post,Jay. I just wanted to mention two books that I use that I think are very helpful for parents:

Fine Motor Skills for Children with Down Syndrome
Gross Motor Skills in Children with Down Syndrome
both are available from

JaybirdNWA said...

Thanks for mentioning that. Those are two really good books for parents to have in their library.

Lovin Mama said...

Great post. There is a saying "parents are a child's first teacher", and I think that goes for all children.

Andy and Ellen Stumbo said...

That was me, that was me! :)

Thanks for your advice, I do appreciate it. Sometimes we have to let other people's strengths cover our weaknesses.

Great post. *I* appreciate it.

Anonymous said...

As a Mum of a little boy with DS and a paediatric Occupational Therapist as well, I couldn't agree with you more.

I feel very lucky with the knowledge that I bring to parenting Flynn, however I resource absolutely everybody I can and incorporate these ideas into everything we do.

Hector and Jennifer Varanini Sanchez said...

Hi Jay,
Have you ever read any of Glen Doman's books. He is a physical therapist too. I think you would really enjoy them. I have links to his Institutes program on my blog. I would love to hear what you think of some of his techniques. I feel that the "How Smart is Your Baby" book is a great one for new parents of babies with special needs and without. Please feel free to email me at
I value your opinion!