Life is one test after another. Yesterday, I took Jack into the city for one of his early big ones, post-op: his gross-motor assessment by the intrepid pros at CHOP’s Cardiac Kids Developmental Follow-Up Program.
Me, Jack, a pediatrician, a speech therapist, a physical therapist, an occupational therapist and Jack’s Vespa-sized car seat stroller crammed into a 10×10 room with a gym mat, a bag of baby toys and a copy of “First 100 Words” — which he liked. (Good for you, buddy; readers are leaders).
The CKDP SWAT team was very pleased with where he’s at. Typically, heart babies have serious gross-motor skill delays (for obvious reasons). On the contrary, Jack reaches out and grasps objects of interest, his static head and neck control is pretty good, he turns his head in both directions to look at objects of interest (though still favors his right side somewhat), and his flat spot on the right rear portion of his skull is now mild.
As it turned out, Jack and I were both being tested. Jack passed his test with a B, I’d say. He actually enjoyed the first 90 percent of the session, despite it being held in a medical setting; more on that in a bit.
Then the team members turned to me. They seemed a bit surprised that Jack wasn’t more gross-motor deficient. Was he a savant? They quizzed me cold (meaning no prompts) on what Mom and I do to promote Jack’s gross-motor excellence.
Mom massages his scars every day, I said.
Good, good, they said.
Mom and I play a game with him called Munchie Flying Through Space.
They leaned in quizzically.
We place our hands underneath his armpits and lift him up in the air like he’s a superhero flying around and say a bunch of ridiculous things that we think babies will like. He has to keep his head and neck up and his legs held straight.
What a great idea, they said.
I shrugged. Yeah, it’s fun. And he likes it, until he doesn’t.
What else? they asked.
Well, I said, let’s see. I gently turn his head at night to his non-favored (left) side.
That’s great, they said. In unison, they inspected the right-rear of his skull.
His flat spot is very mild, the PT said. She looked at the OT. We typically see worse, the PT said.
Much worse, the OT said.
Everyone looked back at me. My cue.
Mom and I do tummy time on our chests, I said.
Wonderful. How about the floor?
He hates the floor, I said. Put him on his tummy on the floor and it’s like he’s being lowered into a vat of acid.
Hmm, they said. They offered suggestions. I made notes.
During the day, I said, I do some activities with Jack from a book I got online.
Their heads tilted in curiosity. Really?
Yeah, it’s written by an OT. She runs a site called Can Do Kiddo.
Is that right? they asked.
I nodded. She’s a real (I almost said “ball-buster”), uh, stickler. Her kids were apparently doing multi-stage shuttle runs and hexagon drills at 6 months.
Appreciative laughter. Oh, Dad. You’re a riot.
Thanks. She also has guidelines and reviews about what sorts of devices and surfaces are good/bad for a baby’s gross-motor development.
Like what? the OT asked.
I told her.
Couldn’t agree more, she said.
I nodded. The rule of thumb is basically this, from what I can tell: if it’s at all helpful or convenient for the parent, it’s really bad for your child.
More appreciative laughter. Dad. You are too much, you know that?
I don’t, but Mom reminds me.
Anyway, I continued, I turn Jack from side to side in front of a mirror. He likes that until he doesn’t. I have him sit on my lap, support his waist and trunk to develop his head and neck strength. He likes that until he doesn’t.
I was having to raise my voice by this point, because Jack’s state control — as the pros call it — was slipping out of control. The lights were bright, the milk was cool, and his nap schedule had been shredded to attend this little throw-down.
The PT turned to Jack and pouted. Oh Jack, she said, are you through with us?
Don’t take it personally, I said, as I rounded up his gear. The kid likes you until he doesn’t.
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