If you have spent any time with Emily, you know that she startles VERY easily. When she hears a loud noise or is moved suddenly, her body stiffens up and she twitches. It usually takes a minute or so for her calm down and relax. When this happens, we are often asked if she is having a seizure because it looks similar. There is a reason for her reaction: Persistent Primitive Reflexes
When a baby is born, they do not have much control of their movement. So most of the movement you see in very young infants is really a reflex (a pre-programmed response in the brain). Small babies will normally startle easily when they hear a loud noise or are exposed to cold or are moved suddenly. It is a reaction to potential danger. In most cases, these early reflexes go away as babies learn more purposeful movements and more appropriate responses to stimuli. For kids with Cerebral Palsy, these reflexes stick around a lot longer and can actually interfere with development.
Since Emily struggles to make purposeful movements on her own, sudden movement really "shocks" her system and causes this startle reflex to kick into high gear. To help with that, her therapists have suggested we do some things that will get her used to movement. We are told to swing her, bounce her, toss her in the air, drag her around on the floor on a blanket - anything to get her body moving around. Her brain has to learn to process the movement and not see it as a possible danger. Some of these activities would be done with any kid, but for Emily it is therapy.
And you know what? Once she gets past the initial shock, she really likes it. Here is a short video of her with her physical therapist, Aimee working on some movement:
If you listen really close, you can hear her laughing. Even if you cannot hear it, you can tell by her facial expression that she is having fun. At the end, you can see she looks disappointed that Aimee stops. It is nice to see that some of the things we "make" her do are actually fun for her.
DYK: Did you know