First of all, the next time you see me, you can slap me for the silly title. It’s just been stuck in my head since I got the idea to write a post on Lil Z’s new orthotics. I promise titles will be in better taste and with fewer references to early 80s rock operas…
But the good news is that after two visits to the man widely considered to be the best orthotist in Brisbane, Lil Z has a pair of lovely new AFOs (that’s ankle-foot orthoses for those of you who have no idea what I’m talking about).
She needs AFOs because despite the fact her foot and ankle are fairly flexible, she has the bad habit of curling her feet and toes inward. This makes it a challenge to put her shoes on, but more importantly means that she often doesn’t take weight on her feet when she should, which of course affects her ability to stand. Over the longer term, it also means she’s at risk of the muscles developing incorrectly, so that her feet are curled all the time.
This first pair of AFOs will keep her feet in the right position to help her to weight-bear and stand better. She will wear them for an hour or two every day, plus when she’s practicing standing or is in her standing frame (and the walker we’re trying to slowly introduce). Later, she will get AFOs that are hinged at the ankle, to enable her to take steps and begin to walk.
However, no one told me about one of the most important aspects of the AFOs – that I could choose the design on them! I’m never good at making that kind of important decision on the fly – I always get home and start to second-guess myself. In this case, I think I did OK, though. I chose blue with dancing teddy bears. It’s a bit of a unisex design (QB thought I should have chosen pink love hearts), but my reasoning was that it will match (or at least not clash) with most of her clothes. And whereas Vegemite is very much a pink, pink and nothing but pink kind of girl, I suspect Lil Z is more of a bright primary colours sort. They definitely suit her.
Surprisingly, Lil Z doesn’t seem to mind wearing them. In fact, she didn’t mind getting fitted for them either – which involved getting both legs cast in plaster. It is probably one of the few experiences I’ve had where Lil Z has been praised for her good behaviour!
So, now we work even more on weight-bearing through her legs, using the standing frame, and hopefully beginning to introduce a walker. And so far, she’s been doing really well.
Which is good, because I can’t tell you how desperately I want Lil Z to be mobile. At the moment, she can move herself around a bit by rolling and doing the most furious bum-wiggle you’ve ever seen. But the more she’s able to move herself around, the more I’m hoping she will engage with the world around her.
It’s been hard, having a child that doesn’t want to explore. She is happy in her bouncer in the sitting room (and rolling on the floor there), on her mat in the bathroom, in the bathtub and in her bed. Right now, she’d be happy living her entire life in those 4 locations. But I want to push her boundaries.
QB and I have been talking lately about how we can go out and have more “fun” as a family. It’s hard because Lil Z is happiest doing her thing at home, but everywhere else is a lottery – either she’s cope well or she’ll hate it, there’s no predicting which it will be. And that then leaves us with the difficult decision: do we take her with us (and risk dealing with a shrieking, ear-scratching child) or leave her at home?
Lately, the decision has been mostly to leave her at home with a babysitter. Then she’s happy, we are both more relaxed and Anya gets some two-on-one time with us. And for some things, I suspect that is the way it will always be. Lil Z is never going to be able to cope with crowds and noise and confusion – it gives her a sensory overload. But I want to push her boundaries so that in the right environments, she is more willing to explore the world around her.
And that is where being able to move around comes in. If she’s able to walk, even if it is just a little with the support of a walker, then she’s going to explore. I know this because I know the one thing that motives Lil Z above all else: movement. She’s never still, unless she’s asleep. Lil Z is a child in motion – always bouncing, jiggling, waving, wiggling… So if you give her the opportunity to move herself by walking, then she’s going to seize it, even if it means having to explore new places.
So thank you, Brisbane’s best orthotist. You’ve made Lil Z a beautiful pair of AFOs. May they take her far.