Therapy! Whats that? Sometimes we’re scooping up every last crumb of energy to just get through the day. Our last month or so has really shown me a lot about what to do when therapy goes to hell in a handbag – other titles may be ‘Riding on the seat of your pants!’ or ‘Anything Is Better Than Nothing.’ or ‘Dammit, Lets Go For A Run!’
In retrospect we left the hospital thinking that ‘the only way was up’. That if we just put in the right amount and type of effort, that we would be able to make slow but steady gains. There is much truth in this assumption but what we hadn’t quite expected was for some things to go completely pear shaped! Our neurologist’s euphemism for this is that stuff ‘evolves’ after this type of Encephalitis.
Over the past months Matilda’s seizures (previous post link here) progressed from simple focal or absence (Petit Mal) to the full-blown shakey kind that most folk imagine and call ‘a fit’ (Tonic-Clonic/Grand Mal). Even her paediatrician admits these can be bloody scarey when you have no experience of them. The week of the first big seizure resulted in extreme fatigue and confusion for all of us. Then the poor little taker got the ‘wipe you out cough/temperature’ bug that had been going through our community. There were 14 kids away in her class the first day she had off sick! This delightful week of attempts to get temperatures down whilst being freaked out that they would throw her into a seizure was followed by our worst week of behaviour to date. We all know that even when our kids are babies, that their rhythms all go out of whack after being sick. Well, our ‘recovery’ week was a doozey (think about your average tantrum and times that by 17 million…O.K thats an exaggeration but you get the idea!)
Therapy was off the agenda. Anything that even remotely whiffed of a structured task led to screaming, biting, running away and general mayhem. And look I have to admit that as a speechie, it feels heartbreaking to not be able to work out how to reinvent a task to an ‘acceptable’ format for her when the storms are raging. It makes me feel like a failure but this gives me great insight into how many of the parents I work with feel, when the demands my profession place on them are simple not ‘doable’ at that time, in their home.
Luckily brain science and recent research has given us lots of ideas and backed up a lot of what our instincts (especially Dad’s who doesn’t have professional blinkers) about what to do so that we still feel like we are nourishing and nurturing her repairing brain, even when planned rehab/therapy is off the agenda.
COMPASSION – IF IT IS TOUGH FOR YOU, IT WILL ALMOST CERTAINLY BE TOUGHER FOR THEM.
- It is so easy for everything to spiral out of control. Too many words and angry responses fuel more difficult behaviours.
- We talk about the ‘crankies’ in Matilda’s brain having a rant but it is not Matilda. At least for us separating who she is, from what is beyond her control seems to help.
- Let it go! This is hard but not impossible. We can have been defending ourselves from a range of flying missiles or be heart-sore from having a favourite object broken but within minutes that tidal wave passes and we try to continue as though it hadn’t happened. No blame, no shame, no hashing over, no analysis of what cannot be explained!
- Grab hold of the good times with gusto. Family runs on the beach, cuddles reading books in bed, hunting Pokemon or building a treehouse. We all have our different ways to connect and share love. Don’t get me wrong. I stress. I panic. I have sleepless nights. I cry. But I try, try, try to focus on the sweet times.
EXERCISE – GET THAT HEART RACING.
- Its simple. Just get out and move. Jiggle, swing, swim, jump – anything at all.
- There is a lot of really good research that shows how exercise helps brain function and neuro-plasticity.
- Initially Matilda had no stamina but we are slowly building up weeny levels of endurance.
EAT & SLEEP WELL – NO BRAIN WILL HEAL WITHOUT REST AND HEAPDS OF IT.
- Watch for tired signs and act on them. Retreat home, send kids packing, reduce talking or cognitive load, avoid multitasking (huh!) and so on.
- We avoid carbohydrates and sugar. If Matilda had a breakfast of just a croissant with jam, we would see a total break down 1 1/2 hours later.
- Lots of protein – this can be really tricky but we keep on trying.
- Lots of Vitamin C rich fruits and lots of veggies…even if the range is minimal.
- Anything with lots of HIDDEN veggies. I grate carrots, courgettes and pumpkin into my spaghetti sauce – Jamie Oliver’s version link here. and mash in veggies to thicken stews.
WATER – DRINK LOTS OF IT.
- This requires constantly carrying drink bottle and checking her intake. If we don’t check, we find she has only drunk about 500ml in a day from lots of sips but not big gulps!
- An adult friend with a grain injury commented that his symptoms are much worse if he doesn’t drink enough.
STAY SOCIAL – FEELING LOVED AND CONNECTED HELPS KIDS MAINTAIN RESILIENCE.
- We have ask our friends for short play dates, early dinners and quick little adventures. It takes a bit of courage to stand out as being different in this way (most of her friends play longer, harder & faster) but if we pushed Matilda to stay up later or play longer, she would be unable to cope. Th consequences would knock-on like a falling line of dominos.
- Play and laughter with friends overrides so many of the other yucky things and not just for her!
RELAXATION AND MINDFULNESS – LOTS OF RESEARCH BUT REALLY HARD TO DO!
- Much as I would love to say we do relaxation, yoga or mindfulness with the kids, the truth is our attempts are sporadic and often a failure.
- Matilda will do some kids yoga videos alone.
- Our best attempts at deep breathing coincided with hips lifts against a wall….breath out on the way up and breath in on the way down…slowly.
- The research in this area is strong. It really does help but for us at least it tricky to get happening in any sustainable way, despite some grate books and CDs 9Such as Sitting Still Like A Frog – link here)
So much to do that helps when all the ‘other stuff’ just can’t get done. My only other HOT TIP is that the parents should do the same. For me yoga is almost nothing about what my body looks like and soooooo much about what my head feels like. In hospital Matilda once said ‘Yoga means a good day!’. She nailed it. I just have to creep out of bed in the dark to do it!