The definition of therapy when you DON'T have a child with additional needs:
I have a love/hate relationship with therapy.
Before Gabe the only therapist I had any contact with was a beauty therapist and even that alas was quite limited (there was also that hypnotherapist on holiday but that is a whole different story).
He was just five months old when he got the first member of Team Gabe - a physiotherapist - and to date has seen at least 30 more in various guises.
When your child is struggling with development and the experts start swooping in with their exercises and encouragement you feel like you are in the middle of a film. You know that one where the man has a car crash and loses the feeling in his legs but through blood, sweat, endurance and the love of a hottie woman, wins a dance competition a hour later.
At the end of every session I would be: "Hell, yeah. Let's do this. Let's get this dude walking. In yer face doctors". All to the backdrop of power ballads galore. Think: We Built this City and Eye of the Tiger.
Then after a few months my enthusiasm would be waning, the soundtrack more Running up that Hill and Don't Stop Believing with a little bit of The Climb thrown in the mix.
A year in and with so very little to show for all our efforts, the play list was becoming dire - I'm All Out of Love and Mad World.
What was the point? Seriously!
Comparing notes with other special needs mums we came to the conclusion that the NHS only provided physiotherapists to keep the antidepressant bill down in the early days - they lull you into a false state of mind to stay positive and believe that there is actually something you can do to make your child develop faster.* A therapeutic measure for all the family, so to speak.
Screw that, for a game of soldiers.
My therapy of choice was muttering excellent swear words under my breath at impatient drivers that cut me up (see you at the lights) and snotty sales assistants. That and
|Someone help me please!|
For a while, I went the other way and did no therapy whatsoever. I am a rebel like that.
I just got to know my child. My wonderful, beautiful child that was trying hard in his own special way.
|Yep, all ready for physio.|
Then with a bit of time, love and nurture (a period where we all chilled the feck out for a bit), he started making his own small strides.
Suddenly we felt ready to give it all a go again. And the twice-yearly episodes of NHS physiotherapy just didn't seem enough. He deserved more. So we started to investigate different types of private therapy.
BIBICWe were lucky enough to access two Lottery-funded sessions with BIBIC. They made us look at Gabe as a whole child instead of one not achieving gross motor milestones. They assessed how his brain registers, interprets and uses information from the sensory systems – these include sight, hearing, touch, smell, body awareness and balance. Because he was not exploring in the way a typical child would we wasn't getting the right messages about his place in his environment so he kept getting freaked out every time his body moved. The era of vibration was born.
|Yep, still pumped up for physio|
By massaging his little body with vibrators and tickling him with feathers and the such (I know snigger away) we got him to recognise his body more and he started to know where it was in space. Before long we got him to sit with support without throwing himself back, which freed up his hands to play for the first time.
|A wine glass is an excellent toy|
|Come on who has stolen my booze? Bet it was Mum!|
Conductive EducationIt was slow, don't get me wrong. Too slow, we thought at the time. When our funding ended we again got lucky and managed to get a free place in a local Centre for Conductive Education. This therapy was the opposite of what we had been doing. This service assumes a child will hit those big milestones and under their weekly input we got Gabe sitting without support and we got him (gasp!) standing.
That was an epic moment. We celebrated that achievement but it was double edged. Yes, he could stand but he couldn't get up or down. He didn't like it. It wasn't comfortable for him. In fact it scared the bejesus out of him. We needed to go back to the drawing board and fill in the gaps in between.
BrainwaveLike the tale of Goldilocks and the three bears, we found Brainwave.
This programme was just right.
It combined all the sensory elements of BIBIC rolled into a traditional physio programme. The sting in this particular fairy tale was that this therapy is expensive. So instead of pawning my jewellery (beads from Top Shop anyone, anyone?), we held a fund raiser. It was a cringe-inducing thing to do. But I am so glad that we reached out to our community who didn't let us down (thank you all again.)
Since we have started the Brainwave programme, therapy has for the first time started to make sense.
The power ballads are coming back on the Ipod. *hums Here I Go Again*
For the first six months we went right back and tried to fill in some of the missing gaps he had in his early development. We started those once annoying rolling exercises again, we threw him around the room (literally) and we roughed him up (so he got all that lovely feedback that toddlers get from flinging themselves around).
|Yield, I say yield.|
And the prize? He starting using his hands to propel himself around and on the cusp of his fourth birthday, he gained independent mobility for this first time in the form of bum shuffling.
Now his therapy, both in school and through the Brainwave programme, is about gaining that core strength so his centre of gravity is strong. For the next six months the focus will just be getting up off the floor and getting back down.
Small simple steps to steps.
So therapy... after four years what are my take-home messages?
(I've given up on being the hottie female lead so I'll be the wise one in this film that uses words like "take home messages".)
- Therapy is not a quick fix - you need the patience of Job (and his mate)
- You are not a bad parent if it does not consume your waking day
- You are not a bad parent if it does consume your waking day
- There is always an element of a child will do something in their 'own time' no matter what programme you are using
- Having fun and doing normal things is ace (and keeps you sane)
- Don't compete - there will always be that parent who is doing so much more than you
- A typical child overtaking your baby is one thing, but another special needs child hurtling ahead stings like crazy. But they all get their moment in the sun eventually (honestly they do)
- There is no holy grail - what works for one might not work for another
- Ask around in support groups for programmes that might suit your child
- Fund raising is always an option - it was not that cringey (honestly)
- Lots of charities will help fund certain therapies (most are means tested)
- Tomorrow is always another day... like the diet it can always start again on Monday
|Gabe says: "I obviously find therapy totally exciting. What time is X-factor on?"|
P.S Mr Hollywood director can I play myself and can Bradley Cooper be the husband. Please. Thank you.