Wednesday, April 18, 2012

The Benefits of Infant Massage

When my son was in the NICU the hospital offered infant massage.

I was very interested in any type of alternative therapy to help with the pokes and prods my sons endured daily.

So, I did some reading and found that there were many benefits to infant massage so, I took advantage of the service.

Massage has been practiced for centuries in many cultures around the world, such as India, China and South America.

All babies need touch to thrive emotionally and physically. Our babies don't get much touch.
Preemies spend many hours in their isolette and we are limited to how much we can touch them. And lets face it the only touch they get to feel right off the bat it the poke of needs for blood draws or IV or of a cold stethoscope etc...

Massage has some special benefits for premature babies.

A gentle massage gives your your preemie a soothing touch. With a series of gentle strokes and gentle leg and arm movements,your baby can experience many benefits .
What are the benefits of massage for your preemie?:
  • It calms and soothes
  • Creates sounder and longer sleep patterns.
  • Can increase weight gain
  • The tactile stimulation can help brain and visual development
  • The baby can become more alert and active.
  • A general increase in health.
  • It increases bonding feelings for parents
More and more hospital are offering massage within the hospital along with other types of alternative treatment.

Get trained by a certified massage therapist because preemies (most of the time) don't like to be touched.
In my experience when we first started my son could experience anything from drops oxygen saturation's to increase heart rate.

So as with anything check with your NICU team before trying any type of alternative treatment.

Make sure you check out this article on how infant massage therapy reduces stress in preemies.

Here is a great book on infant massage called Developmental Baby Massage.

Bargain Books - Always 50-90% Off

Monday, April 9, 2012

Hippotherapy and Therapeutic Riding

"We nearly forgot
what strange thing it is
that an animal, as powerful and intelligent as a horse,
allows another, much weaker creature
to ride on his back."
-Peter Gray

When my son was 3 we were fortunate enough to be introduced to Hippotherapy by his early intervention team.

Hippotherapy is a form of physical, occupational and speech therapy in which a therapist uses the characteristic movements of a horse to provide carefully graded motor and sensory input. (Wikipedia).

I can't explain to you in just a few words how much he loved it. Due to his physical limitations he had always had a difficult time running and playing as most children do,  but on the horse the biggest smile would overcome him.  He continued  Hippotherapy until the age of five.

We then decided to try other activities, adapted sports such as baseball (the most he would participate in this sport was sitting on the field and playing with the sand, waiting around just made him more anxious) then it was soccer (he chased the butterflies more than the ball). Nothing seemed light up his face like the horse.

Since my son is already getting OT, PT and Speech in school as well as private OT. I began  researching Therapeutic Riding vs Hippotherapy .

Therapeutic Riding (also known as equine-assisted activity or adaptive riding) is used to teach riding skills to people with disabilities. Therapeutic riding is beneficial for children and adults who present with any of a wide range of cognitive, physical, and emotional conditions (wikipedia).

Once again my son just lit up as soon as he got onto that horse!! During his re-eval (since it had
been 5 years since we had back) I was amazed at how quickly it all came back to him. His first response? "Lets trot and go fast"

What I recently learned....

Horseback riding is recognized as one of the more progressive forms of therapy for special needs.  Being able to control a horse as well as one's own body inspires self-confidence

What I find most important is that its overall an enjoyable experience for our kids and they get to create a special relationship with the horse they ride.

There are:
  • physical benefits; improved balance, strengthened muscles, improved coordination, better motor planning, improved appetite and digestion, help with sensory processing disorder
  • psychological benefits; general sense of well-being, improved self-confidence, development of patience, emotional control and self-discipline, sense of normality,
  • social: friendship, friendship with the animal, overall enjoyment, taking part in care of animal, team work.
  • educational: improved motor planning, improved eye-hand coordination, visual/spatial perception, differentiation
Everybody needs something to be good at this may be my sons "something"!  It seems to just come natural to him
and  his disabilities disappear for that hour or so :)

From a horses perspective....Let Me Teach You
by Willis Lamm

When you are tense, let me teach you to relax.
When you are short tempered, let me teach you to be patient.
When you are short sighted, let me teach you to see.
When you are quick to react, let me teach you to be thoughtful.
When you are angry, let me teach you to be serene.
When you feel superior, let me teach you to be respectful.
When you are self absorbed, let me teach you to think of greater things.
When you are arrogant, let me teach you humility.
When you are lonely, let me be your companion.
When you are tired, let me carry the load.
When you need to learn, let me teach you.

After all, I am your horse.