I have done more than my fair share of research on Down Syndrome and ways to help with development when my older son came into our family. I never expected that ten years later we would be blessed with another very special addition. When we learned of her diagnosis I began researching more and buying more books geared towards babies and younger children.
We all know that our brains and central nervous system dictate all of our functions so I was terrified of her multiple diagnoses and many of the doctors were not very optimistic either. I knew I would need as many tools and resources as I could find to help her reach her full potential.
With certain disabilities like Down Syndrome and Dandy-Walker Malformation, the brain can be adversely affected. Both of these conditions usually cause some degree of developmental delays along with various health issues. The degree of disability will vary from individual to individual so there is no ‘one size fits all’ therapy program to use. When you add in the diagnosis of Hydrocephalus with chromosomal abnormalities and other birth defects there is an even greater chance of severe delays and disabilities.
Even with all of my other research, I’d never even heard of neuroplasticity training before Shyanne was born but I had been doing some research for therapy ideas when I came across this book. (Maybe I had read it somewhere but forgot?) I wish I’d had this book for my first child as I could’ve learned ways to help all of my children with their development.
Ten Fingers Ten Toes Twenty Things Everyone Needs to Know: Neuroplasticity for Children** by Karen Pryor PT DPT Ph.D.
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The techniques mentioned by Dr. Pryor in the book, Ten Fingers Ten Toes Twenty Things Everyone Needs to Know: Neuroplasticity for Children**, have been game-changers for us. We have been able to help Shyanne reach milestones by learning how to help rewire her brain by integrating primitive reflexes. Most of these are things I never would have thought about or connected to development. Since learning some of these techniques we have seen so much progress with Shyanne meeting goal after goal despite her dual diagnosis of Down Syndrome and Dandy-Walker Malformation with hydrocephalus. The neuroplasticity exercises and techniques outlined have helped to improve her movements, reach milestones, and unlock numerous possibilities… she has already achieved more than we were told to ever expect. With every new milestone reached we are able to see her confidence level soar which motivates her to master new skills in every area… everything is connected in one way or another!
** Please note that our experience will be unique to us and our situation and there are no promises or guarantees that any therapies will achieve similar results. For safety purposes, you should always consult your child’s physician before starting any new therapies or programs!
The author, Dr. Karen Pryor, is a doctor of physical therapy and naturopathy and she also has qualifications in hypnotherapy. She uses her knowledge in these fields to create a dynamic approach to therapy that I have not seen anywhere else. You can read more about her in this article here.
We have also been fortunate enough to be able to participate in various ZOOM sessions with different therapists, including Karen Pryor PT DPT Ph.D., the author of this amazing book! I believe you can contact her for private sessions as well although we haven’t had the opportunity to do so yet.
We attended our first ZOOM session while Shyanne was receiving chemo treatments. She had been working on transitioning to sitting but had been unable to master the skill although she could sit well if you placed her in position. Within thirty minutes of the start of that session, she was transitioning independently. It wasn’t quite the transition that the hospital therapists were wanting to see but she was doing it independently and she was quite proud of her new accomplishment!
Dr. Pryor had shown us a different way of transitioning to sitting via a split! Sounds crazy, and I had never thought of it teaching her that method but it was what she needed to gain some independence. I helped her through the motions the first time and she was able to do it independently afterward with just a little prompting. This method is not safe/suitable for all babies but because of Shyanne’s low muscle tone, she is extremely flexible. Shyanne eagerly showed off to anyone who came to visit her in her room and she AMAZED all of her doctors by how quickly she had learned this new skill. (Since coming home we have been working on transitioning the ‘proper’ way but she still prefers to use her ‘split’ method.)
We also watched a ZOOM session where nystagmus was addressed and we learned some valuable information. Dr. Pryor had mentioned Shyanne’s nystagmus during the first session we attended but we had just not had the chance to address it because of all the chaos we had going on… cancer trumps nystagmus any day! Many doctors will tell you that there are no good treatments for nystagmus but the therapies that we have learned have already made a significant improvement… Shyanne will most likely always have this condition to some degree due to her congenital conditions but now it won’t affect her as much!
We’ve also learned some great tips to help with pronation. We’d already been told that we may need to look into getting some braces but maybe, just maybe these techniques will help to improve this condition as well! We really want to give these techniques a try before we look into any kind of special orthotics.
All in all, this book was very easy to understand and it broke down the specifics in a manner that makes sense. This book is for everyone and can help all families with babies, especially those who may be facing a few more developmental challenges than others. I could see how many of the tips and techniques can possibly be applied to different circumstances like when a patient has a stroke or suffers another deficit that causes a mobility impairment. These techniques could possibly help to rewire the brain to compensate for the loss or damage. I highly encourage all parents to check out this book and start helping their child unlock their true potential!