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#PADSGTKY - Musings on Milestones

By Jess

We’ve been treated to Frida reaching quite a few of the key milestones recently - and those of her mates. She’s in a gorgeous gang of 5 babies born within a month of each other (exactly - all wonderfully born between 21st June and 21 July) and their mums share all their highs and lows and everything else on a daily basis. So if Frida is having a quiet time of consolidation and seemingly not ‘doing’ anything different or new for a while (which happens with all babies, right?) there is always some excitement to be shared from one or more of her #PADSPals.

Recently they’ve all been working hard on crawling or preparing for crawling and have developed their own styles. Some of them are using their new skill to head towards the dog bowls and cat flaps and are making their own water play! It makes for funny videos.

Frida favours a 3 point / bear crawl with her left leg. Her PADS physio suggests she might be a bit tight one side in her hips, but she is seeing her Brainwave (privately funded) physio in person next week so we will get him to check her over. It isn’t stopping her and she is now very quick and loves to explore!

Last time we went to Brainwave in May she received certificates for sitting and rolling and we were set exercises to move towards crawling and standing. She should get certificates for both of those things now, and I’m excited to see what her new programme will be. Glenn and I both go and spend the day with her in the centre in Bridgewater playing and watching Frida have fun showing off her skills. It’s a tiring but brilliant day and we always come away feeling inspired and motivated to weave in the new exercises to our play sessions.

At first we did specific exercises with Frida to build strength, mainly during nappy changes or tummy time. Now it is all play based. We are getting creative with what toys and ‘obstacles we set out for her. She loves exploring, reaching and grabbing so we put things in a specific place to help build her core, trunk and arm strength. As she gets more and more confident with crawling and her legs get stronger, we will start doing more with standing and walking. But I am not rushing this - crawling is a brilliant way to build strength all over her body and I’m keen for her to do it as long as possible so that when she does walk, it is with the right posture and strength. I have also still not forgotten how back breaking it is following a toddler who has just started to walk with your help around everywhere!!!

There are other milestones, too. Makaton Signs like dog, bird, mummy have been added to her repertoire recently, and she points and shouts to tell us where she wants to go. The nursery team tell us that they (after only 3 day sessions) know what she wants as she communicates well with them and they’ve had fun deciphering some of her signs. That’s made me look closer at what she is doing and I’ve spotted that she is also signing ‘eat’ when she hungry and ‘milk’ when she is tired; as well as when she just wants milk. She might not say many words right now (Ada, Mama and Dada are her 3 very clear words), but she is very good at letting us know what she wants and understands a lot of what we say to her. She is rarely frustrated. That is what is important to me as a parent - giving them the tools to express themselves to avoid frustration. For Ada, we are doing a lot about understanding big emotions…

Watching a baby grow is fascinating at the best of times but supporting that baby’s development and understanding a bit about how that helps them grow, is mind blowing. The different speed at which some milestones are reached has enabled me to really see what steps a baby goes through to master key skills - it takes some effort! We all celebrate when she achieves something she has been working on for a while, but Frida is one of her best champions - she claps herself whenever she feels she has done a good job - we could all learn a lot from that!

The concept of ‘meeting Milestones’ is something that every parent tries but fails not to obsess over. I’ve had so many conversations, now and when Ada was young about ‘how they are all so different’ and how ‘they will do it in their own time.’ They are. They do. They will. But there is always that niggle in the back of your head that threatens to consume you when a mate’s kid does something yours isn’t. That isn’t helped by the constant assessment against an expectation of what is an average and typically developing child. I try and see the Milestones checklists (both for a neurotypical kid and for a kid who has DS) in the Red Book and circulated by Health Visitors as being there not to test kids but to make sure that if there is a need it is identified early on. With Ada I must admit I did see it as one of her first tests to be passed. To be good at. To ace! There is still a bit of that instilled in me when it comes to Frida as I want to motivate and support her to reach her full potential. But I’m now not wedded to the age bracket or an order for when these ‘milestones’ should be reached and am just enjoying watching Frida work through them steadily and with joy. She has already proved to me time and time again that she gets stuff done. I now have no reason to believe she will stop doing that. So now I have no limits on what I think she can achieve. Just like with Ada. It’s wonderful.

Our Health Visitor decided to carry out a strength based review of Frida when she was 1 as opposed to checking her off against the ‘typically developing’ child. She visited our home, enjoyed playing with Frida for a while, asked me some questions and quickly decided that she was ‘thriving.’ I think she is too. She is happy, moves where she needs and wants to, can make herself understood, makes friends and gives the best hugs. I’m not sure I need anything more right now.

It wouldn’t be a complete picture about milestones if I didn’t say a few words about the support and work we do with Frida to help her development. We do quite a bit. I read a lot and speak to a lot of professionals and share ideas with other parents. We benefit from regular professional advice and support delivered online via PADS subsided Early Development Groups and Physio groups. Frida has an NHS Speech & Language Therapist and physiotherapist and those we pay privately at Brainwave. We channel everything we’ve learned into play that evolves as her interests change.

I’ll try and talk more about some of those ideas and therapies in the coming weeks as i have no doubt that it is absolutely fundamental to make sure that any child has the correct early development intervention to support them to meet their full potential. A lot of things that we do instinctively are what we did with Ada, but adapted slightly to ensure they work for Frida as an individual - something I know my parents did with me and my brother as we grew up. Everything we do with both of our girls is to make sure that they have the tools to exactly what they want to with their lives.

It is not always easy but my goodness it is worth it.