The joy of seeing your child stand for the first time is so exciting!
For parents of special needs kids, who have been told that their child might never learn to stand or walk, the feeling is indescribable. Sleepless nights, worry, tears, heartache and hours and hours of therapy have been invested into creating this moment.
But if some treacherous thought in the back of your mind is asking… Is standing in a stander really standing?
You are not alone.
There is NO doubt that using a stander has many, many benefits (it can help with digestion, aid in social situations, etc). Each family needs to decide when and where using a stander is appropriate and useful for their own child, but the most obvious reason we use standers, is because we want our children to stand!
So, What is Standing?
Bearing your body weight on your feet, through your bones.
Where Bearing Weight, can be defined as the body working against the force of gravity.
What Standing is NOT...
Standing is NOT static.
Give it a try yourself and see how long you can stand still for.
Like, really stand still.
Just the motion of breathing, creates a chain reaction of itty-bitty movements as your muscles expand to inhale air into your lungs, causing a shift of the weight of your bones, so you can stay balanced in an upright position.
Standing is complex. It’s dynamic.
It’s also something that can’t be taught, but rather is learned through experience.
Neuro-typical babies aren’t "taught" how to stand. Instead, they experiment themselves for over a year. They experiment with counterbalancing their body weights in space and how to work against gravity, until their brains figure out a way for them to do this really fun and cool thing called standing. Where they get to see fun, new things and reach higher.
Leave a neuro-typical baby to their own devices and they will come to standing all on their own.
What happens if your child missed all those wonderful experiences of moving and wiggling and experimenting?
My own daughter lay quiet and content on the floor for over 8 months before she even rolled over. She didn’t have the same random movements her older sister had. Those crazy, arm flailing, foot kicking movements that neurotypical babies have. They can look super adorable and sometimes a bit funny and result in suddenly finding a finger to suck on, or stare at, or end up in strange contortions.
Those seemingly random movements are sending an enormous amount of information to their developing brains.
As a baby kicks the side of the crib, their brain collects the info of how long his leg is, how heavy his leg is, how hard he needs to kick, what happens when he kicks, etc.
Those random movements are tiny science experiments testing out the laws of physics.
And growing brains gobble the data up, then organize it into something useful (like bringing that toy to her mouth to chew on!).
My youngest daughter, due to her genetic disorder, didn’t have those random baby movements. She missed out on all those rich experiences. There were no physics experiments. No learning where her body began and ended. No learning about how her physical body could interact with gravity.
Without that foundation, how in the world could I expect her to stand, just because I placed her in standing???
Which I did, because I didn’t know any better, and I even let professionals place her in standing. Those are moments I regret.
I remember trusting the professionals, yet seeing the fear on my baby-girl’s face.
She was terrified.
She felt unsafe in standing. She couldn’t support herself, the fear of falling overrode everything.
As it should!
It is a sign of a healthy brain to be scared of falling.
Can a brain be in fear AND learn at the same time?
Forced to stand up before she was ready, all of my daughter's muscles were tensed to the max. She expected to fall.
Because her brain KNEW that it had no idea HOW to keep her upright.
Her brain was not in learning mode.
It was in survival mode.
Her muscles were tight to prevent an injury when she fell. Her brain was doing a fabulous job of keeping her safe. But that certainly wasn't the outcome either me or the therapist were going for.
I shudder now to think of all the missed opportunities and what-ifs.
Thankfully, I stumbled across ABM soon after that therapy session. I watched Youtube videos of Anat Baniel gently guiding children through slow and gentle movements.
There were no tears. No fear.
It looked peaceful. Insightful. Curious. Joyous.
I wanted my daughter to experience THAT.
I wanted to learn how to do that.
A NeuroMovement practitioner connects with your child wherever they are at in their developmental stage. The emphasis is on a safe learning environment so the child has the opportunity to explore variations to their own movement patterns.
It worked so well for my daughter (she now walks, runs and recently learned to jump), that I became a NeuroMovement practitioner.
But you don’t have to become a practitioner, (although I highly recommend it!!) to give your own child the same opportunities to explore bearing weight at home.
I will be posting some videos to show you simple things you can do at home to explore bearing weight without standing.
Jen Stewart is a mommy of 3 amazing kids and a practitioner of NeuroMovement™