This week marks the beginning of a 6-week increase in Caleb’s physical therapy sessions. Caleb normally gets anywhere from 1-2 PT sessions per week and now he’ll be getting 3 sessions a week until about Thanksgiving. I felt that over the summer, Caleb wasn’t making as much progress as I’d seen before and I wasn’t sure why. We’re realizing that like most things, his gains will ebb and flow and it just so happened that this summer was one of those times where there just weren’t the huge gains we were used to.
This could be due to the fact that Caleb has gotten taller, and with that, he has increased spasticity (tightness) in his legs. His steps had become shorter and he was dragging his toes more in order to compensate for his inability to pick his foot up and heel strike correctly. I also think the novelty of the walker maybe wore off and he realized that using the walker translated to working hard. There were many hot, humid afternoons when he didn’t last more than 10 minutes outside and due to the layout of our home, using the walker indoor can be difficult (lots of stairs!).
Shane and I had different perspectives about Caleb’s progress and he really didn’t notice the issues I did. Shane has always been more successful in getting Caleb to walk around, be active and focus on his gross motor skills. My strengths lie in getting Caleb to stretch his heel cords, hamstrings and hip flexors (all while snuggling in my lap, of course). I also try to focus on Caleb’s fine motor skills whenever I can, but admittedly it’s hard because hand dexterity is much less of a problem than his bigger muscle groups in his legs.
Anyway, I’ve written that we’re opting not to give Caleb baclofen (a muscle relaxant) at this point in time and we’re open to Botox injections, however, the doctor doesn’t feel like he really needs them right now (which is a good thing!). We wanted to feel like we were doing something to help spur Caleb’s progress and it just worked out that Shane’s was able to take two days off a week to take Caleb up to Baltimore for therapy. He’ll still be seeing his regular therapist every other week, but for these boost sessions, he’s seeing a new PT resident, Miss Julie.
Shane and I both took Caleb to therapy today and he had a rock-star session. You really never know how cooperative he’s going to be, but Miss Julie was fantastic. She had him playing in the “high-knees” position to try to strengthen his glutes as well as “half-kneeling” to stretch his hip flexors. He also practiced playing while standing and not resting his belly on the bench, as he usually does.
Then, Caleb was strapped into this funny-looking corset-type harness and hooked up to a partial-weight-bearing gait therapy device called a Lite Gait. This basically keeps him upright without having to hold onto anything. The idea is to try to get him to take some steps without any assistance. You could tell that without holding onto our hands or the handles of his walker, he was unsure how to proceed. The therapist guided his legs, step-by-step as he moved throughout the room. It was really cool to see him trying this new method and he was such a trooper to this unfamiliar experience. He did wonderful for his first time.
One of the last activities was to stand on a balancing board while he was distracted playing. The board moves side to side and forces Caleb to engage his core muscles to remain upright. I looked into finding something like it online and lo and behold, I found the exact same one, and it’s actually affordable! I have a feeling we’ll have our very own balance board in our home soon!
So there you have it, our latest venture in treating Caleb’s cerebral palsy. I’m confident that we’re going to notice some big improvements in his strength and stamina after these 6 weeks are over. What sucks about CP is that there are so many different treatment options and what’s best for one family isn’t necessarily best for our family. So you educate yourself and move forward based on what your gut tells you and just pray that you’re doing enough.