While parents anxiously await the birth of their child they often visualize their baby meeting every developmental milestone head on, from the first cries after birth to rolling over, crawling, babbling, walking and more. For some parents, however, these visions do not become reality. Instead, they watch and worry as their child lags behind similarly aged babies on developmental stepping stones.
Pathways Awareness Foundation, a national, non-profit organization, is dedicated to raising community awareness of the benefits of early detection and early therapy for children with physical differences. As part of its mission, Pathways also endeavors to guide parents and medical professionals on how to obtain help for a child who is developing at a different pace.
For example, Kathy Olson was concerned when she noticed that her young daughter Katie was not meeting certain milestones while other children her age were mastering head control, sitting, crawling and eventually walking. Olson expressed her concerns to her family pediatrician when Katie was still not walking at 15 months old. Finally walking by 18 months, her movements were awkward. She habitually locked her right knee, and was diagnosed with generalized hypotonia. At age two Katie began early intervention services through physical therapy. “When you have a child, you think your child is perfect. When I found out that Katie wasn’t perfect I couldn’t help but think of the limitations she would face. I worried that she wouldn’t be in a ballet or run cross country, and it broke my heart.”
After Kathy became pregnant again, she contacted Pathways Awareness Foundation to learn more about developmental milestones and warning signs for her newborn Kiley. After her daughter was born Kathy had her screened for delays. Kiley was diagnosed with generalized hypotonia just as her older sister was. Kiley began receiving physical therapy at six months and then speech therapy as a toddler. As a result of the early intervention given to the girls, both are stronger, able to participate in all activities, and have graduated from therapy. Pathways helped Kathy to realize that early intervention is essential, and that a “wait and see” attitude is not beneficial to a child with movement delays.
Pathways Awareness Foundation strives to reach more and more people with the important message of early detection, early intervention and the benefit of therapy for infants and children with physical movement differences. Pathways’ hosts an extensive web site, with stories such as Olson’s. Her story served as an impetus for a California mom to seek further help for her 4 year old son John. When Kris Stone adopted her then 9½ month old from Korea, she was advised that he had been receiving physical therapy for weak trunk muscles. Kris quickly brought John to an area physical therapist who stated that he was “doing everything he was supposed to be doing,” and that he did not need or qualify for therapy services.
Kris believed John’s coordination was still below his peers’ and began researching hypotonia on the Internet to locate additional resources. During her search, she located Pathways Awareness Foundation. While on the Pathways web site, she read Kathy Olson’s story. The story, Kris said, described the girls’ conditions, the therapy they received, and the progress they made. She said that the information in the story” validated her feelings” that John’s physical development was delayed, and that she needed to find avenues to help him improve his coordination and strengthen his muscles. “Having [the] article made me realize that it [hypotonia] needed to be addressed,” said Kris. She also called Pathways’ toll-free “parent answered number, which serves as a resource line for parents. In the course of her conversation with a Pathways’ parent whose child had benefited from early intervention services, she learned activities that she could do with her son to help him, as well as different resources available in California. Equally important, she said, she received reassurance that the things she was seeing were significant and that her efforts to help him were important to his future. Pathways gave me ideas for “fun things that really help him,” said Kris.
In addition to raising awareness about the gift of early detection and therapy for infants and children, Pathways highlights the importance of inclusion of children and young adults by promoting the same respect and opportunity to participate in their communities, schools, recreation and houses of worship.
Pathways produces useful materials for both parents and medical professionals with the help of their Medical Round Table – leading physicians, clinicians, therapists, nurses and lay advisors who are sensitive to the needs of children. Their brochure “Assure the Best for Your Baby’s Physical Development” received approval from the American Academy of Pediatrics. This brochure, designed to educate parents and health care professionals, includes an interactive growth and development chart highlighting speech, play and physical developmental milestones from 3 to 15 months of age.
Pathways’ video, “Is My Baby Okay?” received the 2003 American Academy for Cerebral Palsy and Developmental Medicine “Sage Award,” recognizing outstanding film presentations. This exceptional video features an eight-step gross motor skills examination comparing two six-month-old infants, empowering parents to recognize movement differences. Pathways has produced a similar video for medical professionals entitled “Early Infant Assessment Redefined.”
For more information please contact the Pathways Awareness Foundation at 1-800-955-2445, firstname.lastname@example.org or visit their website at www.pathwaysawareness.org
NOTE: All names in this article have been changed.