My son has a gait trainer. And every day we put him in that gait trainer for a little while. It gives him some experience walking and it helps strengthen his legs. We used to have a little saddle-like sling for him to sit in if he got tired. But upon consultation, we took that sling away. We didn’t want him to rely on it too much.
We put him in his walker daily. But the truth is, his legs just aren’t strong enough to carry him. We’d put him in and walk behind him. We took him out when he tired and started crumpling to the ground. Over the course of a few months, the time he spent in the walker became less and less. This was frustrating for us because we weren’t accomplishing either one of the goals we had set out.
My wife had an “aha” moment (she’s much smarter than I am). She realized that we were wrong about taking his sling away. We looked at it as a crutch he might rely on rather than walk. But taking it away resulted in him not walking at all.
The sling was a place for him to rest when he got tired. And he needed that. It gave him more energy to walk with good form. We looked at it as a harmful thing, as something that would hinder him from learning to walk. But us removing that sling was what hindered him from learning how to walk in the first place.
So now, my son loves his gait trainer. He’s walking around the house and exploring in a way that he never got to do before. The main lesson I learned here is that I thought walking was an independent thing. Meaning my son had to walk without the use of any help whatsoever.
But in the grand scheme of things, what difference does it make if he needs to occasionally sit in his sling? He’s still walking around and doing what we want him to do. What we want for him. Why is independent walking that big of a deal if he’s accomplishing the intent of walking in the first place?
So now, my son is happily exploring the house in his gait trainer. And in doing so, he’s strengthening his legs and getting experience walking - the two things that we wanted for him. We had to take a step back (putting his sling back on), but it wasn’t a step back at all. If anything, it was a step in the right direction for us as parents.
We now focus on what we’re trying to accomplish overall instead of fixating on the little things.
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During the COVID-19 pandemic, we asked parents of children with disabilities and special health care needs to share their tips and stories about caring for their children during difficult times.