Monday, October 18, 2010

Infant massage and developmental delays

When I worked at the foster/adopt clinic as a mental health clinician and trainer I worked with many infants and toddlers with physical and socio-emotional developmental delays. Delays often occur due to early neglect and trauma. Human beings need other human beings to develop. Our physical and emotional development can not occur in isolation I found that teaching the foster/adopt parent, infant massage was a very beneficial intervention both for the baby and the parent/caregiver.

Firstly, it provides a parent a significant tool on a daily basis, to give nurturance and engage in a positve playful way with the infant. It often instills confidence in a foster/adopt parent/or caregiver during times when he or she may feel uncertain about their skills to parent this particular child. It can also help some babies to get back on track with their physical and socio-emotional developmental milestones. For instance , after a thorough assessment, a 12 month old I began working with could not sit up by himself and was not showing signs of crawling or creeping. (which is the pre-crawling period in physical development). By showing the parent some bi-lateral playful stretches to do each day the infant was soon no longer scooting on his back but was exploring how to creep forward on hands and knees. The process took about 3 months to get his nervous system, muscles and joints trained to have him catch up to sit up and crawl. The extra movement and encouraging him and praising him to use his body to explore rather than just sit in a bouncer was also a key to activating his curiosity about the world.

When trauma or neglect has occured in a baby's life, curiosity about the world and exploration is quickly shut down for lack of safety and survival mode takes over. Foster/adopt Parents need to feel and see and sense a positive response to their efforts to engage and be a good caregiver just as much as the baby needs a parent to respond to their cues for interaction and protection.

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