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Developmental Milestones Cannot be Ignored
|by Radha Joshi|
Like all parents we were delighted to hold our baby for the first time. The first three months passed swiftly. Soon the baby started recognising us and responding to our voices. He even achieved the first milestone of “social smile” in two months time.
However, from the fourth month onwards we realised that something was wrong. My baby was not rolling over like other four-month-old babies. He was unable to lift his head as well. Initially our pediatrician asked us to wait and watch, as some babies take a longer time to reach their milestones. Gradually we noticed a lack of physical development. Our pediatrician advised to visit an Occupational Therapist. After examination, the therapist declared my baby had “benign hypotonia”.
Hypotonia or low muscle tone means that the baby’s muscles usually appear relaxed and feel somewhat "floppy". Low muscle tone can affect the baby's movement, strength and development. It affects the development of skills like rolling over, crawling, standing and walking. We were assured that hypotonia could be cured. We were fortunate that we did not take the milestones lightly and realised that something was amiss from the beginning. Early intervention of a qualified therapist is vital. My baby was put on occupational therapy.
Occupational therapy is a treatment that focuses on helping people achieve independence in all areas of their lives. It can provide children with various needs with positive, fun activities to improve their cognitive, physical, and motor skills and enhance their self-esteem and sense of accomplishment. Some people may think that occupational therapy is only for adults; children, after all, do not have occupations. But a child's main job is playing and learning, and an occupational therapist can evaluate a child's skills for play activities, school performance, and activities of daily living and compare them to what is developmentally appropriate for an age group.
Often parents misunderstand the significance of such therapy and its consequences. The most obvious fears include, is my baby a spastic or mentally handicapped? What is occupational therapy? Does my child really need it? Will it help him improve? Often relatives and friends add to our doubts by suggesting that the therapy may be simply a money-making exercise. Surely, no baby needs physio-therapy! Rather, it may affect his normal development and we might injure the baby with the exercises. In fact, none of these fears are well founded as we discovered in the therapy classes.
We took our baby to Sir Gangaram Hospital, which has a special developmental clinic for low tone babies. Our fears were put to rest by the therapist there. She pointed out that occupational therapy in babies was nothing but stimulation of the mind. It did not include any gymnastics for the baby. Rather, she taught us ways to stimulate his mind. Early exercises included tickling the tummy and thighs of the baby, making him sit while supporting his back with the parent’s stomach and making him bounce on a medicine ball or a bolster. An exercise for developing motor ability included making the baby hold a basketball in front of him and then raising his hands above his shoulders, while holding the ball. Tickling, holding a ball, etc are not exercises! Imagine your child holding a full size Cosco basketball at seven months of age. It can be fun. We were asked to continue the exercises taught, regularly at home and to bring the baby every fortnight to the clinic. In every visit new exercises were taught.
My baby showed remarkable progress within two months of therapy. He started rolling over, holding his head and sitting without support. Gradually he crossed all his milestones and by his tenth month he was at par with other babies of the same age.
Parents cannot afford to ignore the milestones in their baby’s development. In the case of a low tone baby, physical lag may lead to mental lag. However, once the baby catches up he is perfectly normal. Do not look at hypotonia or low tone like a disease, see it as an opportunity, you may be nurturing a future sportsman!
Image (c) Gettyimages.com
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04/10/2015 11:48 AM