Monday, June 2, 2014

Firefly & Proprioceptive Sensory Feedback

Bookmark and Share
As most of the special needs community has heard, Firefly currently has two products that are making a big buzz.   The GoTo Seat and the Upsee.   I can't even say I have a favorite.  Both have made a huge difference in Noah's life.   I now find myself looking around the house for things that we already have that simply can be made better by placing the GoTo Seat in it as an insert. 

In a basement corner I located Noah's childrite seat.   He's had it for a few years.  It works okay, but I have always wished for it to have a higher back that didn't stop at the child's shoulders.  It offers great trunk support for a child who can't sit unassisted, but I found myself always needing to prop it up against the back of a couch and then put pillow behind it to make it more comfortable for Noah.   So I decided to see how it would look with the GoTo Seat and perfection!   Noah can now sit on the floor and play at floor level with his little brother. 

We also decided we'd take the boys for their first ride in the wagon together.  They've never had an opportunity to sit together in the wagon.  We initially bought it for Luke so we could pull him behind Noah's wheelchair. We were unable to attach other chairs like the Special Tomato Chair to the wagon because the straps simply weren't long enough and the angle it would have to be positioned at would not allow for another child to be in the wagon,  and the securing straps were never long enough to wrap underneath the wagon to make is sure it was fastened properly for safety.  

The GoTo Seat 2, has remarkable strap extenders.   Firefly is pure genius for realizing that we needed extra long straps that could be extended both underneath the seat and the two back attaching straps.  They also can be shortened if needed by way of a simple clip attachment.   Because of these super long straps we were able to secure the GoTo Seat all around the entire width of the wagon and secure the back around the back bars.  Noah was so comfortable that every time we pulled into our driveway he had a mini tantrum indicating he was not ready to be home and we better take yet another walk around the block.  We did that until Noah finally decided we had given him an adequately long ride.

I really loved Noah's GoTo Seat size 1, but he is just a big guy now, and fits so much better in the size 2.  The side laterals that draw in are great because it gives him the little hug he needs to sit comfortable and secure.  The adjustable headrest is a dream come true!  I am not sure how I ever did without this chair.   And am so thankful that it exists now for children like Noah. 

Recently some parents have asked me about why their child is experiencing slight hesitation with the Upsee reporting their child seems nervous, scared, and cries.   And as a special needs parent with a very physically involved child, I sat down and really gave some thought as to why some children take off loving it from the start while there is still a small percentage of children that seem to be unsure of the Upsee in the beginning.

Then I seen a child using it alongside a hola-hoop and it was like a light-bulb going off.  Of course, some children - especially sensory seeking children could very well be struggling with their body's orientation relative to gravity.  Now granted, I'm not a therapist, but I have lots of years of on-the job special needs training and I've absorbed a lot of knowledge like a big sponge.  I think what many of these children could be experiencing is something called the need for Proprioceptive Sensory Feedback.  For many of these children it's the first time they've had the opportunity be in an upright position without a walking frame.  Naturally some children might be feeling a little lost in space.

This helps explain how proprioceptive feedback works:

Proprioceptors are sensors that provide information about orientation of the body relative to the body's orientation with respect to gravity, movement of the body relative to the external medium and movements and forces in localized regions of the body. Muscle spindles are primarily responsible for position and movement sense, Golgi tendon organs provide the sense of force and the vestibular system provides the sense of balance. Feedback from proprioceptors feedback is essential for the accurate execution of movement execution. For voluntary limb movements in primates, proprioceptive feedback can regulate the generation of motor command by correcting errors using negative feedback loops; providing timing cues about an ongoing movement to initiate commands required at a later time within a movement sequence; and by providing signals used in the planning of movements by providing information about starting limb position to set parameters of feed forward commands. Proprioceptive feedback is also required to modify motor commands slowly in response to alterations in the biomechanical properties of the limbs.

So the key is how can we find each child's comfort zone and offer them the proprioceptive feedback that they are seeking when using the Upsee.   Some kids are content and don't need that sensory feedback, while others do crave it and frankly need it.  By giving a child something to hold onto in front of them, such as a hola-hoop it helps give them a sense of balance and proprioceptive recognition.  Now this doesn't have to necessarily be a hola-hoop, you could do it with a broomstick,  we even tried some ideas with Noah to give other parents some picture ideas, Noah held a child's putter that went to a play golf set.  Could even be a stick.   Just as long as it is something in front of the child that they can hold while walking.  Some children like Noah, struggle to hold onto things, but I find even Noah can hold on with at least one hand even if the other has difficulties joining it.  And as you can tell sometimes Noah needs a little help with us holding our hands over his to help him hold onto something, which is okay if you need to assist your child with holding onto an object. 

Many of you may have seen Noah in Firefly pictures holding daffodils.  Very content and full of smiles.  And while he doesn't seem to require having to hold objects to enjoy the Upsee, I do see that he seems happier when he's touching or playing with something, because he's getting positive feedback through his hands at the same time he's in an upright position.   I certainly think to some degree Noah might even enjoy the proprioceptive feedback he gets from touching or holding objects while using the Upsee.

Most humans move their arms when walking.  Have you ever noticed?  You might wonder why that is.  Your arms act as counter balances for the legs and help to maintain an steady posture while walking. I've watched a lot of videos of children using the Upsee and I'm always curious to see how different children are handling their arms.  I remember watching this one precious video of this little girl who was so excited about her Upsee, and was able to talk about it.  She moved her arms almost in an Egyptian-like fashion.  It was adorable and I'm sure melted the hearts of anyone who seen it.  I couldn't tell if she was doing it intentionally or if that was her way of feeling a sense of balance when she walked.   Some videos I see children have their arms straight out and look like they are getting ready to fly, others seek out the comfort of their parents hands to hold onto, some are giving show-hands, some are able to double wave continuously. 

Some neurological disorders like "cerebral palsy, cause constrained or opposite arm motion. This abnormal movement negatively affects sufferers’ walking balance and energy expenditure." Studies have shown "Arm swinging is a sensible part of an economic gait on two legs.”

Some children simply are not physically able or ready to swing arms in relation to the steps they are taking, and in these cases offering the child something to satisfy the need for proprioceptive sensory feedback, might just do the trick.  If nothing else, it will give you one more adventure and something else to try in the Upsee!

"Walking is man's best medicine."  Hippocrates

Noah's Miracle by Stacy Warden is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.