Yesterday I was chatting with Aiden, who is 3, when he just fell over. Like a drunk guy in a college bar. That’s enough standing and down he goes. In the interest of full disclosure, Aiden and I weren’t chatting about world events, he was telling me something about his brother and the playroom…..No idea what, actually. Speech therapy starts this week. Yay! But then he just fell over. You know. All casual like. He fussed a bit and got back up and wondered off without finishing his story.
Sometimes I wonder what it would be like to be at the office (back when I had a social worker day job and a real office) and just act like my kids. Like you’re talking to a colleague and you just fall down. Or spit your food out of your mouth because…you know….yukky. Or punch your supervisor in the eye because you’re happy and excited about something. Yup. That really happened. To me….I didn’t punch the supervisor in the eye. I felt like that would be a bad choice. #fired
My guys are the clumsiest kids I have ever met. I’m willing to bet, however, that if you’re raising a child with FASD, you might realize that you also have the clumsiest kids on the planet. Every morning Aiden runs (awkardly) to his side of the van, stands too close to the door, refuses to move and the van door hits him in the face while it slides open. Stand down social workers, I’m opening it slowly and carefully. He’s not injured, just surprised. Every single day. I just keep hoping one day he’ll get it and stand a little further back #doesntgetconsequences.
And then he insists on climbing in to the car seat. Can you see where this is going? Yup, he falls out at least once trying to get in and do it “mythef”. Ah, the independent three year old. Undaunted and determined he eventually makes it in, only to frequently punch himself in the face pulling the car seat strap over his body. Bless him.
And let’s not even talk about how the kid runs. Like he has lopsided springs on his feet. That’s how.
Liam’s not much better at the ripe old age of 4. He falls off the sofa at least once or twice a day although to be completely fair, he either can’t sit still at all or sits like this. This is why we don’t have nice things.
The boys were so excited to see me when I picked them up from respite last weekend, they ran directly into each other, smashed foreheads and greeted me with tears and emerging lumps on their foreheads. Much excitement.
So why does this happen? Because prenatal exposure to alcohol causes long term difficulties with gross motor skill. Sorry to be all Captain Obvious there, but that’s the answer. When my boys were babies they were stiff and difficult to dress. I could barely get their clothes on since their legs, in particular, didn’t want to bend. They continue to be kind of stiff and unbendy (new word alert!) and when you couple that with their inability to learn from consequences along with difficulty processing information, falls and injuries happen. A lot. The other fun thing that happens a lot is that they don’t put their hands out to break their fall. That whole not learning from experience thing.
Often times there’s also a lack of awareness about their bodies in general. They don’t seem to know where they are in relation to objects or other people at times. So they stand too close, or bump into things, they open doors into their faces (Ok…I’ve done that, too. Don’t judge.) And sometimes they seem physically aggressive when they’re not trying to be. Does Aiden hit people? You bet. But he also does this weird head butt thing into my stomach that I’ve realized is his version of a happy and affectionate hug. He just loves in a big way. We’re working on that.
Last week we started Sensory Integration Therapy with Aiden. This is his third attempt since he mostly cried and freaked out the last two times. In one session, I learned more than I have in 4 years about gross motor skills and balance. Our OT was great at helping me understand the connection between brain damage, gross motor skills, and balance and coordination. Basically, these kids have damage to their central nervous system which makes processing movement, balance, and other information all at the same time, pretty difficult. I love when I finally get a simple answer to a simple question.
Q- Why are my kids so clumsy?
A- Prenatal brain damage to the system that processes movement, balance, integration of information, and poor body awareness. Oh. Okay then.
Now….what to do about it? Here’s what I’ve learned so far from three rounds of therapy with our OT who is an expert at sensory integration.
IDEAS FOR KIDS WITH GROSS MOTOR DIFFICULTIES
- Get them moving. Just sitting is hard for these guys so plan for movement breaks in school or at other times when they’ve been concentrating. I’m getting a couple of mini trampolines so they can jump while watching television. I seriously hope this cuts down on the falling off the sofa thing. And the number of lamps he takes down with him when he goes.
- Place some painting tape in a pattern on the floor and have them walk the line. It helps with balance and coordination.
- Have them carry heavy items or push them around. Aiden loves to carry in the laundry soap from the car. It wears them out and gives them the satisfaction of helping while using big muscles. Also, I’m tired and groceries are heavy.
- Gross motor activities like crawling in tunnels are great. Pushing a small toy ahead of them is even better since they’re doing two things at once, integrating fine and gross motor skills along with working on body awareness.
- Again with the tape….tape off 4 or 5 squares or round shapes close together and have them jump from one to the other.
- Watch for W sitting. You know when their knees are beside them and their feet point backwards creating an upside down W? It’s often a sign that they need a wider base to keep their balance. It’s a cue to work on balancing activities.
- Get them on the swing set and move the swing side to side, back and forth, and in big circles, helping them to gain balance. When swings move in different ways, it forces the core to work harder to balance.
- If they need to sit for longer periods, have them sit on an unstable surface. I know this sounds counter productive but it helps kids be more conscious of staying balanced. I suggested a cushion that would work in the products below that we’ve used in OT.
- Wheelbarrow games…. Grab their legs and have them walk on their hands in the good old wheelbarrow game. In the summer, have them actually help push the wheelbarrow while you’re working in the yard. Free labor and good gross motor skill working together. Nice.
Below are some product ideas that we’ve tried ourselves with great success. Our therapist also recommended a special chair (because my kids fall off their chairs at dinner time) that starts as a high chair and grows with your child as they get older and I included a link for it as well even though it’s shockingly expensive.
SHOP RELATED PRODUCTS:
Got clumsy kids, too? I love hearing your stories and ideas….feel free to share below.