A little of my learning journey...........
When my eldest Josie arrived in 2006, we learned on day two of birth that she likely had Down syndrome, pending genetic test result confirmations from the diagnostic laboratory. She spent time in the hospital under bilirubin-balancing machines as she had exaggerated newborn jaundice (which caused her to clear excess bilirubin from her liver) and battled dehydration when her looser connective tissue and oral motor tone made it difficult for her to latch properly for feeding. I knew a little bit about what Down syndrome was, I did not know much else until nurses and doctors taught me what things were what and how to take care of this little baby. I was a new mom. I wasn’t able to sleep for four straight hours again until Josie was about two and half years old. When she was three months old, I dove into baby research and we (my husband Bob, myself, and Josie), started an early intervention. The main premise of early intervention is the main premise of most movement-based therapies for young and old, one helps intervene with patterns that are not serving and create patterns that are. There are many ongoing debates that range from how intense to go or even whether the cons are worth the gains, or even how to measure gains accurately. Each week we had a therapist come into our home and monitor Josie’s developmental milestones and whether or not she reached them. We were co-creators in developing lifestyle plans to integrate movements and practices to help her reach those developmental milestones and create the typical developing patterns that specialists agreed upon were necessary for humans to reach for optimal potential. We learned about primitive reflexes, one of which, the Moro reflex, is one found in newborns that causes them to startle easily and feel as if they are falling. We learned that wrapping babies into swaddle blankets tightly can help calm this reflex, as well as various babywearing practices. We learned about how pivotal crawling is for most humans as it is balancing, crossing-midline practices, scanning, and excellent training for future reading skills.
One of many takeaways from our three years in the early intervention program was essential to my entire belief system of learning, is that we learn holistically-mind and body (and in yogic belief systems these are expanded but I’ll address those another time). Everything: movement, language, visual, sound, texture, smell—are learning pathways. When a pathway is hindered, then other pathways compensate for sure- but often, intervention is needed. I see this in my own learning at the age of thirty-eight. When I get writer’s block, or an overall inertia—I have to rewire myself. Whether it is a brisk walk, a bike ride, trampoline jump, or some yoga postures, I have to intervene or I will spiral. It is the same with learning and that is why the present and future of learning interventions are addressing and shifting to better attend to the sensory, movement, and reflex needs of learners. Many therapies are becoming multi-disciplinary and multi-sensorial. Occupational therapists are working closer with speech pathologists. Some physical therapists are supporting vision therapists in working out helpful and mutually supportive goal creations.
Aside from therapeutic and in-office interventions, I see more parents empowered in home. They are taking online-trainings, checking out good library books, scouting Pinterest for sensory friendly-activities, etc.- parents are intervening and helping their learners’ needs. I see myself in them, often a slightly tired, been up-too-late reading pub med articles or sensory toy reviews and their eyes say, “this will be a SLOW day.”
In 2010, my second baby arrived, and the journey changed and got livelier. Then in 2012, my last baby came, and balancing three kiddos needs became the juggle and the constant!
I hear you. I am you. I honor you. You got this. Let’s try to ask for help more? Let’s try to play more while we do all this? Let’s try to laugh at this a little more too. Oh- and when you get a bit overwhelmed, zip yourself up real tight in a mummy-style sleeping bag on the couch and breathe deep into your back ribs where sixty percent of your lung tissue resides. Not only will this calm your central nervous system once you lie flat, allowing your adrenal glands to rest for at least five minutes, it may also calm any remaining Moro reflexes that flare up now and then when you get stressed out. Science is teaching us ways to nurture and help us. Go you.