Thursday, May 6, 2010

The Love Touch

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There are some things that Noah will never learn in therapy. He can't learn what it feels like to be cuddled when you're scared, can't learn that a tender kiss can fix a lot of boo-boos, can't learn that a soft song can help you through a rough night. A mother's love is the most amazing bond for any child.

From a neurological standpoint, in my opinion, it's even more beneficial for children like Noah to have extra attention for the brain's continuing development. It would be easy for someone to put a baby like Noah in a corner and forget about him. He's not mobile, cannot sit, cannot play like other babies his age and throw toys or piece them together, can't talk or tell you yet his his needs. Some might consider Noah a boring baby, I consider him the most intriguing and loving human being on earth. But children like Noah need more attention than normal developing children do. His brain needs lots of interaction to learn and build pathways.

While watching a therapy video of a child with a brachial plexus injury (which is an injury to the network of nerves that originates from the spinal cord and controls muscle movements and sensation in the shoulder, arm and hand), I realized that the therapist was indeed kissing on the child's hand for reinforcement. And over time the child would make an effort to reach out it's hand for another kiss. Now you're probably thinking how could the child have felt anything from that kiss if the network of nerves had been so severely damaged. Well the brain is a mysterious thing, and who's to say if that child felt anything or not, or if it simply enjoyed the loving attention it was receiving from that movement.

I've applied that same idea to Noah. Noah's arms can be very stiff at the elbows. Granted Noah has complete feeling, but his nervous system needs a bit of help transmitting signals into proper movements. I can get the same type of results with Noah by kissing on his arms and hands, and gently caressing his arms with my finger tips, slowly but surely he'll release his tight arms and allow me to put his arms in the air over his head. He also responds to gentle shaking of his arms as you move them upwards and releases the tension. He'll still of course revert to his comfortable pattern of stiffness over time, but it's teaching his brain slowly that there is another way for his arms to be.

Granted, therapy has it's role, but so does a mother's love and tenderness - or even a father's for that matter. There is something that is so beneficial in a child's recovery that comes from his or her parents. I knew the moment that we first brought Noah home that his will to thrive soared. He wanted to be home, he wanted to be loved, he wanted us. And he still wants us. As parents of any child we are their first teachers, their first line of defense, and their first love.

There are days when I wonder am I doing enough for him? Could I be doing more? Teaching him more? Showing him more? I'm sure all parents feel that to some degree, but with having a special needs baby that feeling is magnified times a thousand.

Today I brought out Noah's dried pinto beans for play for the first time. I put them in a tupperware bowl and let him squish the beans between his toes, kick them and even reach for them with his hands and grab them. Granted this is safe because Noah cannot get the beans to his mouth, but should there be a time when he's able to, bean therapy will have to go. But for now, he's loving every second of it. I've attached a great resource link for home-made therapy ideas and learning toys. Therapy equipment and toys are often so expensive it leaves you feeling helpless to purchase everything you'd like to. And sometimes the best things are as simple as a bowl of dried beans.

Noah and I have also found our favorite Elmo DVD. The Best of Elmo 2, is our favorite. He loves all the songs and the dancing. I love how he makes a cub-like roar at the sound of hearing Elmo's voice or squeals with excitement at watching Elmo ride a bike through the park. Our best days are spent dancing and singing together, just the two of us.

"Making the decision to have a child is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body." ~Elizabeth Stone