Wednesday, February 10, 2010

So You Have a Brain Injured Baby

When Charlie was first home from the hospital, I was desperate to know what I should do with him. People were telling me that anything was possible, but I'd seen the pictures--Charlie had a L-OT of brain damage, and I wanted to get crackin'. Only one problem: it was hard to find any information about what to do with a brain-injured baby.

So, for all the people who may wind up here because they Google "brain damage" and "baby," here's my list of five things I recommend you do. Remember, I'm not a doctor or a therapist--just an in-the-trenches mom. Discuss any plans you have with your doctor.

  1. Enjoy your child. All babies are very, very similar and I am angry at myself for not truly enjoying Charlie when he was small. Most babies eat and sleep and need short periods of stimulation. If your child is going to be disabled, you have plenty of time to deal with all of that. The itty bitty baby thing lasts for a very short time--enjoy it, snuggle, and breathe in the baby powder scent.

  2. Put your kid on his/her belly. This is good for typical kids and non-typical kids. When Charlie was very small, he had a feeding tube, so we put a nursing pillow under his arms to make sure he was comfortable. Putting you child on their belly helps them develop arm and neck strength, which will be really useful when they decide they want to move.

  3. Stimulate the five senses. I could tell that charlie's vision had some issues even when he was still quite young, so I used a flashlight to stimulate pupillary response. Maybe that's a little gung-ho, but black and white images are great for any kid. And kids have five senses! We also played classical music (before he discovered Lady Gaga), encouraged him to feel interesting textures, and let him smell fresh ingredients in the kitchen.

  4. Start trying to introduce the concept of cause and effect. It's a basic building block of learning and making connections. We started with Charlie by saying, "ready, set, go!" and then pumping his legs like he was running. Anything will work. Just get your child used to the idea that the world is logical.

  5. Try to encourage independence. Make no mistake, Charlie is pretty disabled. He couldn't lift his head off the ground until he was four months old. He was at least seven months old before he could grasp anything in his hand. He wasn't able to sit on his first birthday. We started encouraging independence at a young age, though. We dangled toys millimeters from his hands, I laid him on top of toys so his movement set them off, I did everything I could to give him chances to entertain himself. These days Charlie has a stubborn streak a mile wide--he WILL figure it out and NO, he doesn't need your help, thankyouverymuch!

So tell me--what advice would you give a new mom for helping her child grow and develop? I'd love to hear from regular moms and special ones.