physical therapy helps hit milestones

Oliver is an active 2 year old. He adores his older brother, cheerios, cars and bubbles. He also has Downs Syndrome.

One in every 691 babies in the United States is born with Downs Syndrome, making it the most common genetic condition. For any baby, development is a continuous process. Specific milestones in each of the four areas of development - gross and fine motor abilities, language skills, social development and self-help skills - serve as prerequisites for the next stages. Because of specific challenges associated with Down syndrome, babies will likely experience delays in certain areas of development. However, they will achieve all of the same milestones as other children, just on their own timetable.

When Oliver was born and his family realized he had this genetic condition, his mother contacted Easter Seals North Georgia’s Babies Can’t Wait program. At a just a few months old, he began physical therapy. Almost two years later, Oliver receives hour-long, weekly in-home therapy sessions with his therapist and friend, Amie.

Their biggest milestone was when Oliver crawled right before his second birthday. It was definitely a hands-on approach for the entire family. “When he was learning to crawl, she taught us how to offer assistance to him by helping him keep one of his legs bent while he was attempting to crawl,” remembers Oliver’s mom, Kelly.

The therapist recommends things to do at home, and Oliver’s family would follow through with them the rest of the week. Oliver was uncomfortable with bending his legs and Amie taught his family to put him in a squatting position as much as possible to get him used to it. His mom would read to him while he was in this position so that he would be engaged in a fun activity. Amie also showed Kelly stretches to help Oliver reduce muscle tightness.

Crawling has proved to be a very big milestone for Oliver and his family. He loves crawling to his big brother and exploring his environment. “Crawling has prompted him to really explore his environment and engage in some of that typical childhood behavior like getting into the kitchen cabinets and pulling things out,” says Kelly.

Now, Oliver, Amie, and his family are working on climbing the stairs and getting ready to walk. Amie quickly realized that Oliver loves his big brother. He’ll often sit at the top of the stairs so that Oliver has the will to make it to the top. "I also figured out really early that Oliver is a very smart kid. He knows what he wants to do and he is determined to do it," said Amie.

Early intervention has proven benefits especially for children with Down’s Syndrome. Access to therapies and medicine have expanded opportunities for children and their families. Kelly says of Oliver’s development, “I know Oliver will meet his milestones late and that's fine. I just want him to gain all of the skills he needs to function as independently as possible. I would love for him to be mainstreamed into the ‘typically developing’ population as much as possible too. Ultimately, the goal for him is happiness.”

Oliver’s experience with ESNG’s Babies Can’t Wait has helped not only his physical development, it’s helped his entire family focus on his accomplishments and the future. Kelly says, “BCW has helped us realize how much he has truly accomplished. When they do evaluations to determine his level of functioning, we often find that he can do much more than we ever gave him credit for. So, I appreciate that they regularly update his overall functioning.”

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