Defining independence for Hazel: Inch by inch

Hazel loves things that light up!

Hazel loves things that light up!

Each year, we sit down with our Early Intervention Service Providers and come up with a plan for Hazel’s services. When creating Hazel’s therapy objectives for the year, I decided to focus on helping her become more independent. I thought these goals would help alleviate some of the stress I felt as a parent, while benefitting Hazel’s development. After a lot of thought, I felt we should focus on Hazel’s self-feeding skills, mobility, and communication.

While we are so happy that Hazel now feeds without a tube, she does take a considerable amount of time to feed. She drinks from a bottle and eats pureed food, but she does not feed herself. She is not yet holding her own bottle, and she requires the same assistance when eating purees. Her bottles can take the longest to consume. It takes her anywhere from 10 to 30 minutes to finish a bottle, and she drinks three to five a day. She’s faster with purees, and these only take around 10 to 15 minutes to finish. A more challenging part of feeding is Hazel’s lack of trunk control. Because she requires a really supportive high chair, it is difficult to plan her meals outside of the house. We either have to bring along her adaptive Kid Cart, or feed her in an umbrella stroller or car seat. I am becoming better at being more flexible about feeding her outside of the home, and I feel less restricted by her feeding schedule. However, I do feel like our daily schedule revolves around when she needs to eat next and deciding what we can fit in between bottles and purees.

When she’s not feeding or resting, Hazel is either playing or practicing her therapy exercises. She has been able to roll over since she was nine months old, but she is not yet sitting without support. When she’s on her belly, she can push her bottom in the air, or prop up on her elbows for a short amount of time, but never both at the same time. At times she seems to be trying to crawl, but she’s not coordinated enough to get anywhere. When she’s motivated to do so, she can travel around the room by rolling or wiggling across the floor. Other times she’s content to lay in one place. I want nothing more than to see her army crawl or sit unsupported. While progress is slow in this area, I do get hope from the tiny inchstones she’s making in her physical strength. She kicks and splashes more in the bathtub than ever before, and she will prop sit without complaint for a lot longer than she used to be able to. As Hazel has always shown us, she will make her milestones in her own time. I do hope to see her move purposely towards toys by the end of this year. She will make her momma even more proud!

Besides her physical therapy, Hazel sees a speech therapist, as she is still waiting to verbally communicate with us. She makes many different types of noises, but nothing that seems to be communication. She is very social and will giggle and laugh at times, but we have not yet been able to get her to demonstrate preferences to us. For example, we are working on getting her to choose between two toys or two different foods. We want her to either fix her gaze on the item she wants, or two make a verbalization when the preferred item is in front of her. We are also working with adaptive switch toys to teach her cause and effect, which is an important part of learning to communicate.

Each day, we focus on a few exercises that work on Hazel’s skills in feeding, mobility, and communication. While the definition of independence is different for our child, we celebrate our inchstones in development as any parent would. There are days when I push Hazel and myself a little harder, and there are days when I just want to lie on the floor with her and cuddle. While I have to revisit these goals occasionally to see if we are on track, I also have to remember that Hazel will continue to do things in her own time, and we are here to support her along the way.

If you have ideas on ways to help Hazel feed herself or thoughts about things that may motivate her to mobilize, please send them my way!

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