While Seeking Firsts, Nathan Finds a Second Family

There’s something extraordinary, almost magical, about firsts.

First snowfall
First slow dance
First car 

These noteworthy mile markers on the road of life somehow become even more precious when a child is brought into the world.

First tooth
First Thanksgiving
First hair cut

Parents begin to collect a mountain of sweet moments with each passing day.
For career mom Rebecca, catching firsts aren’t always easy. But on a quiet Sunday in August, Nathan snuck in a landmark: rolling over, four times in row, nailing each tumble like he had been practicing all along. 
As a burst of excitement and pride washed over Rebecca, she reached for the phone to share the big headline. Firsts that may come naturally to so many newborns are sought-after, fought-after, time and energy invested groundbreaking goals for Nathan. 
Instead of calling her husband or her parents in celebration, she sent a message to someone she recently met: Heather, the physical therapist.

April 2016

Beeping machines hooked to colorful tubes.
A doctor instructing, a husband encouraging.
Delivery nurses taking notes and orders.
 
It’s the typical orchestrated symphony of a labor room.
 
But the whirlwind of noises and people and time, they all freeze once the obstetrician says she has concerns about your newborn.
“I hadn’t even laid eyes on him yet. It literally felt like the whole world stopped. There was nothing.”
 
It was on this day, following the birth, Rebecca and Charles first heard of Nathan’s diagnosis and a hint of future difficulties.
 
Because Nathan had genetic testing done in the hospital to confirm his diagnosis, the hospital was able to quickly give the family information on early intervention. Shortly after leaving the hospital, Nathan had his official evaluation at home. This is where Heather, a Little Lukes physical therapist, enters into Nathan’s story, home and heart.

Patience and Progress

Now as a giggly and vibrant two year old, Nathan’s schedule includes both speech therapy and a specialized teacher once a week and physical therapy twice a week at home. Not only does his family support him, but Nathan also receives feedback, motivation and training from these three different therapists for comprehensive growth.
 
“Our therapists recognize the things that Nathan needs and address them quickly,” said Rebecca. “I can call or text about our concerns and worries like how Nathan started out grabbing objects, shaking his rattle for hours to not holding anything, not even my hand. In that case, our therapist immediately reacted to our observation and got him toward occupational therapy.”
 

An Extra (Six) Pairs of Eyes

Although acutely observant, Rebecca and Charles didn’t pick up on a few seemingly unimportant details that Nathan’s team of seasoned, certified therapists flagged as potential problem areas. For instance, Nathan’s go-to position was once rolling onto his belly and laying his head on the floor to one side. As it’s a comfortable, relaxed posture, his parents naturally thought this behavior was normal.
 
A Little Lukes therapist addressed the concern that Nathan may not be trying to sit up because it’s a challenge to support himself. With consistency, they began to build up his confidence and core to self-supported sitting, which Nathan accomplished when he turned one.
 
Nathan’s conquered list continues to grow already achieving improved head control, rolling, pivoting on his belly and the ability to maintain sitting balance and pivoting in sitting. His most recent gross motor achievement has been pulling himself forward on his belly using his arms.
 
“We are currently working on moving forward on his belly or his hands and knees using a reciprocal pattern, standing at support surfaces and appropriately transitioning from sitting back down to his belly,” said Heather.
Both Nathan’s parents and Heather agree Nathan’s milestones feel bigger because the journey to make progress takes a little longer. The work and dedication from both sides to turn a goal into an achievement contributes to the victory.
 
“It makes my day when I receive a phone call, text, photo or video from a family or caregiver sharing that their child has mastered a new skill,” said Heather. “It’s even better when the child demonstrates that skill for the first time while I am there during a therapy session. This is probably the biggest reason I love what I do.”
 

Laying The Foundation

The early childhood years lay the foundation for a child’s future development. Heather notes that studies have shown that it is crucial that children with disabilities develop a form of independent mobility at an early age to avoid a sense of learned helplessness, where the child becomes passive and dependent on others and therefore do not develop to their potential.
 
When it comes to deciding to pursue an Early Intervention Evaluation for a child, Rebecca is a strong advocate to not wait.
“Don’t hesitate,” said Rebecca. “Your internal instinct as a parent isn’t always right. That was the hardest thing for me to get over. I’m not the only thing Nathan needs, and we don’t always know best. Delaying this decision is selfish. We owe it to our children. Without our therapists, Nathan might just be sitting on the one spot of the carpet not doing much.”
 
With care, compassion and expert thoroughness, Nathan’s Little Luke therapists are eager to support him and his family as he continues to explore the world around him even more, at his own pace.
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Do you have concerns that a child you know or your own child may be struggling with a development delay? Review this easy referral document to understand how to easily proceed with an early intervention assessment.
Early Intervention is a program developed for children birth to 3 years old. Visit littlelukes.com for details.

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