Sunday, January 25, 2009

Treadmill training - getting a leg up on the competition!!

Here is the link to a story being picked up by the media. It is about the use of treadmills for infants/toddlers with Down syndrome. Dr. Ulrich of the University of Michigan's Department of Kinesiology is the brainchild behind this concept and he asked me and Lauren to come up for the taping of the information segment:

Lauren on the treadmill (the video segment is on the right).

Dr. Ulrich, aside from being a really nice & caring person, is deeply interested in kids with Ds, like Lauren, as well as kids with other motor planning issues and physical disabilities. His interest goes way back to his undergraduate studies in physical education and he has devoted his career and research to uncovering what will help our children develop greater physical skills.

While we aren't officially enrolled in the study (which recommends that you have your baby walk on the treadmill for 8 minutes per day), Dr. Ulrich is gracious enough to bring a treadmill to your home if you live within a 100 mile radius of Ann Arbor.

I can say without hesitation that it has made Lauren stronger and more capable. We don't use it as much as the research recommends but I can definitely see how it had helped Lauren's little body develop the motor pattern for walking, something that children with Down syndrome don't come by as naturally as other children.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

18 months

Exactly 18 months ago, Lauren was born and began her role as teacher. She was tiny and still and had skin that hung a little bit loosely on her body. She couldn't stay awake very long and she never could finish more than about 2 ounces of milk at a time.

But, oh boy, what a story she had to tell. Let me share a little bit of it with you.

Lauren came into this world, full of expectations, hope and a need for love. She wasn't damaged or broken or in need of genetic counseling. She knew that her parents had their doubts and that she just needed to hang in there long enough for them to come around.

In the meantime she gushed sweetness, innocence and a sense of purpose - all traits that she now possesses in triplicate.

As a teacher, Lauren has guided us through the principles of acceptance: don't judge a book by its cover, don't be afraid of the unknown and never underestimate the power that your heart has over your mindset.

When Lauren was born, I knew that I couldn't (as planned) write an adoption plan for her. I was meant for her and her for me and anything less than that would break my heart. She taught me to trust my instincts.

In the past 18 months, (which have passed by so quickly), Lauren has re-grounded us, taught us to slow down and appreciate each small thing and to join the joyous world of Down syndrome. Everything I read in the book,
Gifts is true! We aren't pretending to be happy or in some mad whirlwind of denial/grief/acceptance. I've learned that Lauren isn't the one with the problem - I am! She couldn't be better, happier, more determined, or cuter! Who am I to limit her potential by buying into the stereotypes and negativity surrounding Down syndrome??
She is a joy!

The past 18 months have been incredible - not only in what has happened with Lauren but also with all that she has brought to my world: new friends, new experiences, new emotions and a renewed sense of God's grace.

Lauren, like so many children, is here to teach me that the world may not be perfect, but it is okay the way it is. We roll with the punches, get back up after we get knocked down and find the joy in small things.

No, it's not always rainbows and sunshine. My life is very stressful, tiring and challenging. But honestly, Lauren is the bright spot in it, most of the time.

Thanks for being a part of this, but mostly, thank you LoLo for being born - 18 months ago~

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Early Intervention

Now that Lauren has reached the ripe old age of 17 months, she is old enough to attend "school". It's actually Early Intervention (EI for short), which if you don't know, is a chance for little tiny kids to get together with other tiny little kids and their parents and play, sing, eat snacks and chat while therapists roll you through a series of 'therapeutic' activities.

Here in Michigan we are pretty lucky - we have options. These options include taking Lauren to an EI group that is just other kids who are developmentally delayed. This runs the gamut from Down syndrome to cerebral palsy to prematurity to syndromes and disorders that are so rare that the child you are looking at may be 1 of only 250 in the United States. The advantage here is that all of the kids are behind, and therefore, somehow, equal. The parents can compare notes, cheer one another on and appreciate the uncommon joy of celebrating a child of 2 taking her first steps!

The other option is a playgroup that would be a combination of kids who are "typically" developing = no significant or global delays along side kids with diagnosed conditions, delays, syndromes etc. We would do the same things in this group as the other - so no difference there.

The appeal of this is that Lauren would be with kids who are modeling skills that we want her to learn eventually -walking, talking, grabbing toys from other children, throwing tantrums, biting, ignoring their parent, etc...

It's a tough decision for me because I really like both of the teachers and the therapists. I love the idea of Lauren being with typical peers as that is where I want her to spend most of her life. But, at 17 months, she has nothing to prove and I mostly just want her to be comfortable. Truth is, she's almost always comfortable when she is with me.

Today I took her to meet the counselors I work with at Monroe High school. One of them commented on her sweet nature. Yes, that is true. Another made a comment that irritated me for awhile. She looked at another counselor and said "she seems pretty normal to me".

Hello, she is normal!!

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Bedtime Stories

For the past few months, my son Gabe has insisted on having me close by as he fell asleep. He has, in his own words, "bad thoughts" that keep him from sleeping. After some tears and gentle pleading, I was finally able to find out what his bad thoughts are.

Gabe is afraid of something terrible happening to his family and of us all dying. This, of course, breaks my heart. I know for a fact that he is really confused by his brother Gaven's death and by Gaven's place in our family. We talk about him often and we have pictures of him throughout the house. When we talk about our sizes, our ages, our interests, Gaven is included. Gabe is always the first person to include this brother he never met, in all activities that include the whole family. Gabe wants to figure out where Gaven fits in as much as he wants to understand the mystery of death.

I'm sad that Gabe has such a heavy heart at times and that he has any cause to worry about anything other than his next soccer game or getting to go outside for recess. But, he does. When a family loses a child, it does indeed affect us all.

Our bedtime ritual includes talking about his bad thoughts, asking God to take them away, praying for the entire family and, if we're lucky, a good chuckle over something silly like Barney's fake playground set and things that Gabe used to like....back in the day when he was 5.

I try not to get too caught up in the sadness and drama of my newly-6 son's world, but I also don't ever want to leave him hanging. It takes alot of energy to face his fears with him, night after night, but I know, like so many other things, he will put this behind him someday. If I can be there for him, in some small way, now, and all along the way, perhaps we will have the type of relationship I hope to have with him when he's a preteen, a teen and an adult: open, trusting, fun, emotional and honest.

On this note, I wish my sweet boy a good night and to all of the little ones out there who have fears, doubts and 'bad thoughts', I ask that your spend that extra 10 minutes with your child now so that they know they are loved.

Gabe, Curtis and Dav

Future Drummer?

Future Drummer?