Working with Lana
Lana first came to me when she was five and a half months old. She was recommended to me by a colleague who is a Handle practitioner and mainly works with autistic children. Lana was born with Corpus Callosum Disorder, a condition where the structure that connects the two cerebral hemispheres is partially or in Lana’s case, completely absent. However, a part of the back of the brain still passes information from one hemisphere to the other but as Lana’s grandmother explained to me, instead of travelling on a dual carriage way, the information moves along country lanes.
As Lana is a first child and I haven’t worked with a child with this condition before and the symptoms can vary a lot from one individual to another, we didn’t know what to expect of Lana’s development. This invited us to be open-minded, patient and positive. Luckily Lana’s sight and hearing is unaffected and she doesn’t suffer any epileptic seizures. However, the parents were told that they could expect developmental delays and poor motor coordination.
In her first session Lana was brought to me by her mother Emma and her grandmother. Emma placed Lana on her back on my mat and together we observed what Lana was able to do. She was focusing well on my face when I was bringing it close to her to introduce myself while tapping her chest. She also followed the movements of my fingers to the right and left by looking at my hand and rolling her head. Lana would try to reach for a toy that I held in front of her but the coordination of her hand/arm and her eyes was not yet very well developed and although she tried, it was not easy for Lana to reach the toy. Once I put the toy in her hand, Lana’s grasp was weak and the toy fell repeatedly out of her hand. Emma was concerned that Lana was lacking motivation to reach and play with objects and instead focused more on people’s faces and was in general quite happy to lie on her back and to not move much. When I was touching and moving Lana’s arms she would stiffen them and pull them away from me. I showed Emma how she could tap and squeeze Lana’s arms to help her feel them better and to map them better in her brain so that Lana could begin to use her arms more easily and purposefully. I invited Emma to do this at home to support the learning that happens in the lessons. It is important that the parents actively participate in the learning process of their babies and I found that this can also help to lessen any anxieties or worries the parents might have about their baby’s progress.
Still lying on her back, Lana kicked both legs simultaneously and would also press both heels into the floor. I helped Lana to bend and straighten each leg and to flex and extend each foot and ankle separately. In the back of my mind formed the question to what extend Lana’s condition might influence her ability to feel the two sides of her body independently (which would be very important for rolling over, creeping, crawling and later walking).
Lying on her belly, Lana was able to lift her head for a short while but not for very long. However, she could turn her head to both sides and would do so when I was either bending her right or her left leg to the side and closer up to her belly. She was not yet able to play with a toy in this position as she couldn’t support herself on her arms.
Over the next weeks Lana’s ability to grasp and play with toys improved, she showed much more head control when she was lying on her belly and could support herself better on her arms. This enabled her to play more easily and to stay for longer in this position. Lying on her back, Lana would start to cross the midline of her body to reach for an interesting toy and to start rolling onto her side. She was also beginning to become more active in general and to make more sounds. Her progress was slow but continues.
One day her father brought her for her session. Emma told me that he was struggling to come to terms with Lana’s difficulties and hasn’t yet told his parents that she was born with a disorder. In the lesson I helped Lana’s father to observe what Lana was able to do and I pointed out the progress she made since her last lesson and since I saw her first. I then guided Howard to touch and move Lana in a supportive and meaningful way. This seemed to have been an important step for Lana’s father to accept the challenges Lana is facing and to tell his parents about it.
In the coming months Lana was learning to roll over both sides, sit unaided and play more purposefully either in sitting or kneeling against a box. Her comprehension improved a lot and she is now able to make more sounds and say a few words. We still focus on differentiating and integrating the movements of her arms and legs to help her find the necessary coordination of her upper and lower body required for crawling and walking. Cross lateral patterns seem to present a particular difficulty for Lana and need a lot of repetition in varied situations.
Working with Lana has been a very interesting journey and often challenging for her parents as her learning didn’t happen in a linear way and we had to stay positive and open even though nobody was able to predict what Lana might master in her life. Bringing Lana to her regular sessions with me helped her mother Emma to stay focused on what Lana is able to do rather than on what she can’t achieve yet. And whenever it seemed that Lana’s progress was slowing down and not much new was happening, I would remind ourselves that children and babies learn at their own pace and need space to develop. A believe that is so beautifully revealed in the name of Chava Shelhav’s Child’Space Method.