Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Here Batter, Batter!

“Play Ball!”  Nick announced upon arrival to his physical therapy (PT) session at the Green Therapy Pavilion he’d signed up to play T-ball this summer and is ready to take the field!  Previous PT sessions included teaching and even practicing T-ball skills.

Now, listen, I watched my nephews play T-ball.  They approached the T-stand bat in hand to swing at the ball sitting on the tee.  Chaos ensues as a dozen or more four to six-year-olds run around in utter confusion. Watching Nick practice with Sue, his physical therapist, made me realize there’s more to T-ball than what I just described if kiddos are coached well.  More importantly in Nick’s case, he must understand how to handle himself physically in order to prepare for the physical demands of the sport.

Previously, Nick ran the bases in a haphazard direction within “our playing field.”  After showing him once how to run the correct sequence of bases from first around to home plate, Nick had it down after a trial run.  In today’s session, we work on new facets of the game.  As Mimi comes up to bat, Sue shows Nicholas how to prepare as an outfielder for the batter’s hit: head up, keep eyes on the batter, and knees slightly bent to be on the ready to go after the ball.  This effort facilitates the management of his balance challenges.  For weeks, Sue has been working with Nicholas to squat v. sit on his knees during activities.  I recently learned that only two years earlier, Nicholas couldn’t walk without holding someone’s hand!  Today, he not only walks without assistance, he runs!  Once again awe-struck, I’m convinced of the power of early therapeutic intervention.  Nick manages his crouching position well as he defends his field position;  although by the end of our “game,” Nick’s showing signs of tiring, and becomes a little less diligent about the mechanics.  The practice helps him build his stamina and strength.

Another facet of play involves being a team player.  I remember T-ball kids letting the ball go by them, getting the ball and hanging on to it, and/or throwing the ball in a direction that made no sense to the play in motion.  Yes, they were four-, five- and six-year-olds, but I don’t sense Nick will be one of those kids.  If anything, Nicholas will most likely be giving orders like a team manager about what to do!  Sue teaches Nicholas to throw the ball to another team player who is closer to the base runner so that person can tag him out.  Previously, our play involved Nick or any one of us chasing the base runner around the bases.  This new technique builds Nick’s coordination and throwing precision.  We practice team work.  Mimi makes the hit and Nick throws the ball to Sue who attempts to tag Mimi out.  We practice this play several times as each of us take our turn at bat.
More significantly, Nicholas catches the ball.  An earlier PT session involved bouncing a larger ball to Nick for him to catch.  Cerebral palsy (CP) sometimes causes a movement pattern called extensor tone, causing the individual to respond in a reflexive stiffening reaction to touch.  In Nick’s case, he jerkily recoils whenever anything comes towards his face or body.  Nick struggles to catch the large ball the first few times, rearing his head and sometimes, his whole body backward in this extensor tone response.  Sue directs him to keep his head down and eyes on the ball as he catches it.  Mimi and I chuckle as Nick  intently follows Sue’s instructions by lowering his head down, eyes to the floor as he waits to catch the ball rather than upon catching it.  Eventually, Nicholas masters the move, and with time, that CP reaction will work itself out to become more manageable.  It takes baby steps and I have no doubt Nick will get there.

Back to the game at hand:  The T-ball comes to me, and I pass it off to Nicholas so he may tag Sue for the out since he’s closer to her.  Viola!  Nicholas catches the small ball easily and makes the out!!  In another play, he gets the ball and passes it off to Mimi who makes the out.  All three of us cheer, remarking how well he did at passing and catching the ball - very focused and controlled to its intended recipient.  And his catches were without a mitt!  Adding the mitt to this process will be another next step in Nick’s readiness for T-ball.

Miss Sue and I can’t wait to watch him play T-ball this summer on the field!  We may witness chaos of which Nicholas may contribute, but we’ll be proud to witness his T-ball goal manifest.

In the Next Blog Entry: Facing my Kryptonite - As I move into speech therapy observations of Nicholas, I’d have the opportunity to master my resistance to my kryptonite.  . . . He’d look at me with eyes seeking to impress . . . . and I wasn’t going to let the little guy down, no matter the threat . . . ”

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