Thursday, November 29, 2012

Learning to Stand on His Own Two Feet: Strategies For Learning to Stand

This post was originally called "Strategies for a Non-Walker."  Then, it was going to be called "Learning to Walk, Super Joe Style."  Finally I decided to take a lesson right out of Joey's playbook and call it what it really is right now.  It is learning to stand.  Learning to get up on his own two feet and stand independently.  

The walking will come.  It will.  Even though my knees are aching from carrying him up and down the stairs at our house.  Even though my left wrist has started to develop what may be the same carpal tunnel I suffered from when I was pregnant and even though my left bicep is strangely larger than my right bicep (I always carry him on my left side so I can use my right hand)-- he will walk someday. The non-walking 2 1/2-year-old can be a struggle at times. It's tough because he wants to get up and go and crawl all over the place instead of being in his stroller when we are out. It gets a little hard because he weighs what feels like a ton and he is getting taller and bigger, but I'm not. I'm not looking forward to the winter and trying to balance him and my purse and holding Tommy's hand. It's just those little things that can make a small outing a much bigger issue than it should be.

We had an evaluation the other day and the therapist asked me, "Does Joey stand up in the middle of the room?"  Um, no. Not even close, but he wants to.  He wants to so very badly and he will get there. We will get there together.

In the meantime, it is more important to try and enjoy the moment we are living in.  To celebrate the progress he has made in this past year.

This is from almost a year ago when he wasn't crawling, yet.

Do you have a toddler who, um, well, doesn't quite toddle, yet? Trying to come up with creative ideas to encourage pulling up, standing, cruising and eventually walking?

Some of the things we started working on about 4 months ago include:

1.  Letting Joey crawl as much as possible.  He does an "advanced" (basing this only on his newly found speed) Army crawl.  It used to be just his elbows propelling him forward, but after finally just letting him crawl all over the house instead of carrying him, he is now starting to use more of his arms and his legs-- YES!!!-- have started to move a lot more with the Army crawling. Joey has never done a traditional, 4-point crawl (ie: on hands and knees), but his Army crawl is crazy fast and very entertaining to watch.  Letting him crawl instead of carrying him all the time has given him the chance to explore his environment more and become more motivated. Yes, read more motivated as "getting into a LOT more trouble." Since improving his speed he has been able to get to Hershey's food and water about 5 times before I could get there first, he has thrown Tommy's entire outfit into the toilet before bath time and he threw his own toothbrush into the toilet. We are THRILLED! 

Dog bowls, toilets and all areas of water are of great interest. He is so fast!

2.  Braces. Joey has leg braces that go almost up to his knees. The braces are fine, but we found that putting his little sneakers on has also provided a lot of support and they help stabilize him.
Superman for Super Joe.
3. Getting out of the stroller. To strengthen his core, we started using one of those little push car things on our walks instead of always using the stroller. This required him to use much more of his core and it made him balance more.

4. Gait trainer.  We originally were borrowing a gait trainer and using it at his preschool, but our Early Intervention Coordinator and therapists from Help Me Grow realized he was tending to just sit in the trainer instead of stand.  If you can borrow one from your County service provider, it is a possible route for improving standing and walking. For Joey we have decided to switch from the gait trainer to a stander and we will hopefully move back to the gait trainer in the next 4-6 months when he is able to independently stand.
The gait trainer we were using at school.
5. Stander/Joey's Chariot.  The Stander has been a game changer for Joey. Something about it has really given him the desire and the feeling of what it feels like to stand on his two feet and be upright. He has been using it for about a month now, but he has started pulling up a LOT more.  Such as tonight.  When he stood up at the bathtub and toppled right in.  Right in the full tub.  In his jeans and sweater. I was horrified, shocked and thrilled all at once!

6. Putting items of interest up high.  Items like Tommy. Toys. Iphones. Remote controls. You know- items of interest. 
Hey Bro!  How's it going up there?

Figuring this standing thing out.

Cousin Brenna and Joey.
7. The boxes. The boxes hold toys, blankets, photo albums and used to be beautifully stacked in our family room before children. Now they act as a means of blocking the fireplace and a climbing station for Super Joe. Usually there are toys on the tops of each box to get him to climb, but his modus operandi is to clear off one box by swiping all the toys off, climb up, clear off the next box, climb up and finally he clears the top box and gets to the top. Go Super Joe! Go!

8. The cheerleader. Thomas Henry is Joey's #1 fan. His #1 supporter. His #1 cheerleader. He is his motivator and instigator. He brings me the levity I often need after a trying day. Today at school some of the kids in his class were asking why Joey doesn't walk and why he had a "wheelchair" at school. Tommy's AMAZING and compassionate teacher took the entire class across the hall to Joey's classroom (with Joey's AMAZING and compassionate teacher) and Tommy explained to all his classmates that Joey is learning to walk and his stander is helping him to learn to stand up. He added a few extraneous tidbits such as the fact that Joey doesn't yet say "Mama" and that he sometimes bites Tommy. :) To think of my precious little 4-year-old having the wherewithal to be able to explain all that without hesitation takes my breath away. He is our entire family's #1 cheerleader.

Nope- not a photo from the 4th of July. He found a flag and carried it around for an entire day. 

All of Joey's hard work is paying off. He is making progress. He is moving forward. Being in this world every day makes it incredibly hard to recognize the real progress he is making, but he is doing it. And it is hard. And he never gives up. Even when he is tired and has to put his head down. He always gets back up--in spirit--and tries again.

Do you have any strategies for tips for teaching a toddler to stand and walk? Is there anything you have struggled to do, but you persevered and got back up until you made it?