Therapists often recommend these well-designed seats for kids that need solid foot support, but even the best hip and chest strapping doesn’t always mean that a child is actively using their feet for postural control.
As a young therapist, I used tape, foam, and towel rolls everywhere, as if I was creating a modern sculpture. For the most part, all I got for my effort was frustration. Food and force tend to make short work of the most ingenious wedges and supports on a chair used for feeding. Then I got smarter and decided to make this a lot easier on everyone.
I wanted to share my easiest strategy for helping children place their feet on a foot plate and keep them there: shoes!
The little guy in the “before” photo has generalized low tone and hypermobility. His pelvis is reasonably stable using the existing straps on the chair, and he is able to reach forward to finger-feed, partially activating his trunk and hip musculature. But those feet just tapped away on the footplate, and his legs remained extended at the knee through most of the meal. He is too little to respond to any verbal prompts for posture, but not completely addicted to gaining sensory input though his feet. He is there for the food, and the foot movements were his way of gaining sensory input and entertaining himself!
Just putting on his tiny boat shoes gives him some “grip” on the foot plate, and he stayed in this position for the rest of the meal with our repositioning his body at all! He still has to develop some hip control so his knees don’t move laterally as he reaches forward. Using shoes with non-skid soles is an easy hack to help him get some distal stability without constantly touching and repositioning him. Kids that get a lot of therapy and need almost total help for toileting and dressing really start to hate all our manhandling after a while.
Hope this gives parents and therapists an idea that requires very little effort and can deliver immediate results!
Wondering how you are going to deal with potty training? Check out my new e-book, The Practical Guide to Toilet Training Your Child With Low Muscle Tone. There is so little useful advice out there for parents of children with hypotonia! My book as checklists and specific strategies for pre-training, choosing equipment such as seat inserts, and covers the sensory and social/emotional consequences of low tone as it relates to learning this important life skill.
My book is available on my website tranquil babies, at Amazon and on Your Therapy Source, a great resource for pediatric therapy materials. Coming soon: my next book on raising a child with hypermobility. It will include strategies for positioning, play, ADLs, and school activities. My web designer suggested that I should add short videos so that you can see demonstrations and equipment/toys that make life easier for everyone! Please submit comments if you have your own suggestions to make this book a great resource for parents and therapists!