I've eluded to the fact that Sammie B would likely be acquiring some new equipment this year, including a gait trainer (in fact, our desire to get her in one was a huge impetus for changing physical therapists last year). Well, after trialing several in physical therapy, we are FINALLY ordering one . . . a purple (her choice!) Rifton Pacer. Sam is sort of lukewarm about walkers when we are at physical therapy, but one thing we know about Sammie B is that she tends to do more when she's in the comfort of her own home, with her people . . . and we've been talking with her a lot about getting a walker at home, and she's super excited about it. Whenever I mention it, she says, "PURPLE!" and "I'm READY!" I've explained to her that we've ordered it and have to wait, but I'm hope hope hoping its not too long of a wait.
You may remember that our old PT was totally opposed to gait trainers (she believed that you don't want kids that have the potential to walk independently to become dependent on equipment), and that the PTs at Sam's center-based early intervention program had a different philosophy (their belief was that you don't want to hold kids back cognitively/socially by refusing to give them equipment they need to interact in "typical" ways with their peers and environment) . . . and that current research supports the latter, which drove us to switch PTs.
Anyway, after all the testing/assessments we've been through with our girl and a WHOLE lot of thought, we really, really believe that her lack of independence in mobility has held her back in other areas. She's dependent on adults for support in walking/moving and as a result, is always glued to an adult. Because of her dependence on adults for her mobility, all of her play and exploration has been adult-driven. As much as we may wish our girl didn't need equipment (I'd cut off my own limbs to make mobility easy for her), the fact is . . . we want HER (and her peers) to see herself as a three-year-old, and not a baby, and we want to give her every chance at independent mobility that we can. If adaptive equipment is a means to that, then we will embrace that equipment. I can honestly say that I am (like Sammie B) super excited to get her a gait trainer. This may not have been something we ever envisioned picking out for our child, but you know what? Here we are. And if it helps her and gives her a new found way to navigate her little world independently, then truly, I say (with enthusiasm) "bring it on!"
Over the last several months, we've tried several different gait trainers in therapy. All had pros and cons and there was no "perfect" one, but ultimately, we knew we needed to just pick one and get it for her to work in at home. So, pick one we did. At the end, it came down to two . . . the Rifton Pacer and the Snugseat Mustang.
The Pacer (although this one is a little wide for her, hers will be smaller):
The Mustang was super smooth and fancy-like, and a little easier to move in sideways directions, but it is also a brand-new gait trainer, and one without a proven track record like the Pacer. And, it also has a seat (this one takes the place of SnugSeat's old Pony), which our Sammie B quickly realized she could sit on and do less work.
She would sit on it (like a bike) and use her legs to move herself around. Clever, yes, but not what we are aiming for!
So, that's why we decided on the Pacer. It's more work for her, and a bit of a learning curve, but we are confident she'll be able to do it, as is our PT and it is a little closer to a pediatric posterior walker, which we hope is something she'll be able to work up to in time (and then, we'll just strip off the supports and the Pacer can be a posterior OR anterior walker). Right now, she tends to sort of push the top half of her body really far forward then bring her legs to catch up, but with practice, she'll get more control and be able to move her body a little more as a unit.
If you'd like an idea of what one of these things look like in action (and what we are striving for with Sammie B), check out our guest star . . . JOE!!! (Remember him? Sam's Baltimore boyfriend?). Click here for a video of him moving and grooving in his Pacer! (Joe has wrist prompts, which Sammie B's Pacer won't have; she'll have chest supports, which he doesn't have. Most of the gait trainers have a bunch of different optional supports because every kid needs a little different arrangement).
In anticipation of Sammie B's purple Pacer, we've created a play space in what was our living room. I mentioned that our house has a lot of stairs and isn't exactly gait trainer friendly, but we rearranged things a bit, and moved a bunch of Sammie B's toys down to the living room, moved furniture out of the way, and created a big open space that she already loves. Once we have the gait trainer, we'll take the gym mat out of the floor and just let her loose to explore and figure out her new wheels.
We HOPE HOPE HOPE Sammie B's purple Pacer will get her moving and grooving like our friend JOE!!! Here's to hoping and enabling and empowering and moving and grooving :)