First steps… It’s sooo exciting to watch little ones toddle around. I remember being on the phone with my hubby when our oldest took his first steps in our living room. Although at work, my hubby was (luckily!) able to experience it with us the moment it happened. We all dream of watching our kids take their first steps and anticipate it with great excitement!
But what of the kids that take longer to walk? What about those that may be crawling down the aisle at Target, still learning how to mobilize themselves? (Yes folks… I have let Ollie do it… don’t judge me :)…)
For many parents with special needs children, walking comes much later than the average one year mark and therefore when it comes… it’s BEYOND exciting! I think everyone can relate to the fact that, the greater the challenge, the greater the victory! Watching your special needs child walk for the first time is no exception to this truth. When Ollie began taking his first steps I was ELATED…. so excited, I didn’t even know what to do with myself.
Ollie began walking at 6 and a half years old. We had no idea if he ever would, but we put every possible support in place to give him the best chance of doing it! All kids are different, so this may not be the key to getting your special needs child on their own two feet, but I would like to share some secrets that I believe led to Ollie’s success!
Install Bars EVERYWHERE
We have them in the hallway (I think that was the BEST decision ever!), back yard, bathroom… I plan on putting them in his bedroom to assist in dressing while standing up. Bars offer help without an adult having to provide that balance. Without you standing there, your child can learn to challenge his body and figure out how it works! The bars provide safety and as they get more comfortable, they’ll let go and only use them to prevent a fall.
Let Them Fall
Take their safety into account and decide how much risk you’re willing to let them take.
One of the most challenging things for our family is helping onlookers feel safe and okay with the amount of risk we let Ollie take. If he isn’t able to try things on his own, how will he ever learn to walk independently? He HAS to experience some falls. It is going to happen. We thought about helmets and wrist guards. We cushioned corners and installed as many safe guards as we could. And then we let him go! He has gotten bumps, bruises, and cuts. He’s fallen into people and stepped on their toes! He is ok and they are ok 🙂
Let your child live a little! Decide what amount of “discomfort” you are “comfortable” with and chalk it up to the fact that we ALL FALL DOWN and we just have to learn to get back up. Need some theme music? Click Here 🙂
I have shared about the Anat Baniel Method and I cannot speak highly enough about it! It has this crazy theory that you need to only let your kid do what they can do on their own (i.e.: no standers or tummy time!). It was the weirdest concept to me. But we have seen him do so well with it I cannot deny it’s impact. If you have the means to do it, I swear the therapy is worth trying out! There may even be a practitioner near you.
Find (excellent) Leg Braces (if needed!)
We travel to New York and see Dr. Paul Jordan to get Ollie’s leg braces. Recently we have started working with local doctors to try and duplicate what Dr. Jordan has done. His theories are not widely practiced, but we’ve found someone nearby that’s willing to look into his methods! Many kids will not need leg braces or will do great with the local orthotics shop. However, if you feel that your child isn’t walking due to instability with the orthotics she has been given, it’s worth checking out! Dr. Jordan’s theories work hand in hand with the Anat Baniel Method, which is why we were willing to travel so far.
Note: These tips are my own thoughts. I am not diagnosing and cannot diagnose your child and their specific needs. See your pediatrician to see what they think or advise! Bring them your ideas to discuss! Also, I am not getting any kick-backs for promoting these guys! I just have to share the good news!