Alex is a conga star!
Alex received his first lesson at the age of 10 months. His parents proudly described how he was pulling himself up to standing and managing quite a bit of side-cruising. As I observed the determined baby pull himself up to standing, I noticed that he was standing on a “twisted ankle.” As he put his foot down to support his weight, he placed the foot on its side, so the outer ankle bone was down against the floor. Every time he pulled himself up he repeated this uncomfortable position. His utter determination superseded his inefficient body mechanics as he happily found himself upright and walking sideways! I thought, “Hmmm…let’s show him the more effective way.”
KNEELING FOR PROPRIOCEPTION AND BALANCE
I set out a box that was about twelve inches tall (the width and depth are irrelevant). I asked the parents if they could put Alex on his knees in front of the box. Well, you may know that once a baby has learned to pull himself up to standing, it is next to impossible to keep him down close to the ground. I found it difficult to bend his legs and keep him on the ground; UP he would pop in half a beat! I showed Alex the fun game of banging my hands on the hard top of the box, making a very cool sound, “Pat-a-tat-tat! Pat-a-tat-tat! Everything in the room stopped as Alex looked at me, obviously intrigued. I instructed his parents to put him on his knees in front of the box. This time they succeeded quite easily. “Pat-a-tat-tat,” I repeated. Alex smiled and began banging his hands on the top of the box. I instructed his dad to respond by tapping back with his hands, creating a call and response between father and son. Alex was having a great time.
Meanwhile, I moved his knees closer together, so the knees were in a straight line with the center of the hip joints. The pelvis was directly above the knees, not sitting back on his feet. This brings about the ideal alignment of the pelvis and legs for the standing position. If the knees are too wide, he will stand with too wide of a base of support. And while he played his “conga drum,” he was improving his balance since he is not holding on with both hands at the same time. While one hand holds on, the other is banging the drum. When he gets the action of playing with both hands, he is not really holding on at all. I touched the center of his heels with a rather firm pressure. This is assisting with the proprioception of this part of his body. When we stand, we get our power from our heels as they connect us to the large muscles of the legs and pelvis.
After some play time on our drum Alex began to move around the room. He began to pull up to standing, but now by using the heel of his foot to connect to his leg muscles! Through some proprioception of his heels, he learned a more efficient way to stand up, in less than 15 minutes! After a short while, Alex chose to return to the position of his knees. He played back and forth between the position of his knees and the cruising. I encouraged his parents to find a box and play drums with him once a day while he is on his knees, as this better prepares him for standing and walking. With this lesson, we have no falling stars, only rising ones!