Alternative Therapies for Special Needs: Personal Experiences

Alternative Therapies for Special Needs: Personal Experiences

I love Chloe exactly as she is, which is why I often struggle with the idea of trying to “fix” her. Obviously, though, anything – or almost anything – we can try and see if it helps her, we are and always have been willing to do. I say almost anything because of the possible risks associated with different alternative therapies and, unfortunately, what it usually comes down to is the cost. So if something appears to be not too risky and is something we can afford, and especially if I have seen or heard of something helping someone else, then we will most likely try it for Chloe. Here is an overview of what we have tried and a few that are on the radar to try if/when we can afford it. Each therapy type is linked to an external website providing additional information. Anat Baniel Method (ABM) : According to their website, ABM, “rather than try to force children into developmental milestones they are not ready to do successfully, which can groove in their limitations even deeper, [this] method wakes up the child’s brain to create new connections, often at a staggering rate, leading to spontaneous, often extraordinary breakthroughs in movement, thinking, self-regulation, and connection with others.” I had heard a lot about this method through different online support groups and it couldn’t be ignored that this therapy was working wonders for other special needs children. So, despite significant financial constraints at the time, we decided we at least needed Chloe to try it once. One half hour session later, I was  convinced this could be a game changer...
I Am

I Am

Music is one of the main ways I deal with the ups and downs of life – it always has been and I imagine it always will be. Playing the piano has always been an outlet for me and I always feel emotionally recharged when I’m done. I soak up lyrics like my life depends on it. So when I faced the life changing experience of special needs motherhood, I found some of my greatest comfort through playing and listening to music and finding lyrics that helped me through my journey. Chloe, probably by default, also loves music. Before we had her seizures under control, one of the only things that stopped her from screaming would be laying right by the piano while I played it. A neurologist once told me the different vibrations are probably what did it. Needless to say, I did a lot of piano playing in those early months! We also got her involved with music therapy that we still use to this day. Many different songs have helped and inspired me (and continue to do so) through a lot of different rough times. Music to me is like breathing. I don’t get tired of breathing and I don’t get tired of music. ~Ray Charles When a song comes together with awesome music and lyrics that touch on a subject close to my heart, it immediately becomes a favorite. That’s what happened with this song, I Am by Vinyl Hearts. Inclusion has conceptually been important to me since I can remember. The older Chloe gets, however, and especially the more she recognizes her differences and feels sad...
Part of Something Special

Part of Something Special

You know when you are out somewhere and involved with something and you get an overwhelming feeling of it just being so very special? I had that experience this week. It was when I brought my daughter Dylan to the Reese’s Run, a race just for assisted racers, their wheels and their running companions. The run was the first of what will probably several in a series to get more assisted racers out and involved in the running community. This initial race functioned as a fund raiser, all the money raised will be used to purchase push strollers for people to use at similar events. When I heard about Reese’s Run I knew I wanted to do it! A goal of mine was to start pushing Dylan in races myself but the stars just hadn’t aligned. I asked my faster and stronger running friend Sara if she would be interested in pushing Dylan in the race and she said absolutely she would love to! At this point I cannot imagine pushing a stroller for 13 miles! It’s HARD! Sara however, was up to the task! I knew that Sara would have to complete approximately 45 laps around the Utah Olympic Oval in order to complete a half marathon so I knew I needed to do something. To keep her going. I got some poster board and went to town on race signs! 19 actually… one for every 2-3 laps! Day of, this is me hoping that Dylan didn’t hate it. She could, it wasn’t like anything we had done before and I know Sara was considering it an honor...
Assistance Dogs for Children With Special Needs

Assistance Dogs for Children With Special Needs

Our first real experience with an assistance dog was at a children’s hospital when Chloe was staying there for a few days. Elliott, a big black labradoodle, came to see her several times and she just loved having him as a visitor and getting to pet his soft, curly hair. Elliott’s handler gave me some information on assistance dogs and I started gathering information. There are several types of assistance dogs: guide, hearing, service, seizure response, and emotional support (therapy). I’m going to highlight a few types that I think might apply to most readers on this site. Service Dogs For Chloe, I decided to look into a service dog, which would primarily provide physical or mobility assistance. Service dogs can be trained to do different things for children with special needs like picking up and/or carrying items they might need, turning on lights, etc. Companionship, comfort, and increased self confidence are major bonuses, but not their primary purpose during training. Assistance dogs are typically trained and certified by an organization and are legally allowed full public access under ADA regulations. This would include school, doctor’s offices, hospitals, shopping centers, etc. Many service dogs are Labradors, Golden Retrievers, or Labradoodles (for those with allergies). In order to be allowed full public access, the dog must wear a special vest and be accompanied by the child they have been trained to serve. Therapy Dogs Therapy dogs are typically put through obedience training and provide companionship/comfort, but are not trained on any specific tasks for the child. Therapy dogs are not given public access rights like service dogs, but can still be...
Who’s In Charge Around Here?

Who’s In Charge Around Here?

I get it. They are sick, struggling, or can’t verbally tell you what they’re feeling…. so you let it slide. Over and over again, you let it slide, your special needs child’s behavior. I’m sure for special needs children or not, parents do this all the time, but I’d guess that with special needs children, you have a list of excuses a mile long of why you should just let it go. I sure did it and sometimes still do. It got so bad at one point, that I asked her doctor for help. He referred us, for this and other reasons, to a neuropsychologist. A multi-day evaluation resulted in this understanding: Chloe knows what is going on, is aware of our emotions, behavior, and how her emotions and behavior have an impact on our emotions and behavior. That was good news, right? Well, sort of. It meant, plain and simply, that Chloe had us wrapped around her tiny, little special needs finger. The specialist recommended we read and immediately implement the concepts taught in 1-2-3 Magic: Effective Discipline for Children 2-12 by Thomas W. Phelan, PhD. I’d be lying if I said I got right on that. I had a hard time believing a book could magically fix all our frustrations in how to handle Chloe. And I certainly did not like the idea of disciplining my angelic and “can do no wrong” child. However, living through a few more months of feeling completely out of control in my home and all social situations, I realized I needed to at least give it a whirl. Reading the book, for me,...
Life is Better With Friends

Life is Better With Friends

Keep in mind, I am not a child psychologist or social scientist. I am, however, the mother of a little girl with special needs and I care a whole lot about her being included in social situations and having genuine friends. I have encountered some positive experiences with other children reaching out and including Chloe and watching her enjoy those relationships and experiences has been a delight! Abby is a little girl in our previous neighborhood who, when riding bikes or walking past our house, liked to stop and see Chloe. During these short visits, we found out Abby was learning to read and we told her how Chloe loves us to read to her. Abby’s mom suggested Abby come read to Chloe once a week. So that’s what Abby did. Both girls loved it! We all looked forward to our weekly book readings. Abby’s mom would help her pick out different books at the library about things Chloe liked — princesses, animals, cars…. we let Abby borrow books of Chloe’s so Abby could learn to read them as well. A real friendship developed and Chloe always looked forward to her visits from Abby! Abby invited Chloe to her princess birthday party. I was so nervous for Chloe to go, thinking she might get left out or have sensory issues, but neither happened. The other girls were so sweet making sure Chloe got included getting her makeup done and nails painted. When they played with the parachute and danced, they made sure there was room for Chloe’s Cinderella “carriage.” This was one of Chloe’s favorite parties ever! At the princess party, Chloe met...