Spina Bifida Program occupational therapists and physical therapists are constantly working together with families to promote progress and positivity. Here, they offer tips on two important topics: beginning a bowel or bladder program and building strength through tummy time.

OT outlook: Bowel and bladder program “social stories”  

Spina Bifida Program occupational therapists have created “social stories” for patients who are preparing to start a bowel and/or bladder program. These stories are intended to be read while in clinic to children as a storybook to help them learn the different ways that children with spina bifida can go to the bathroom.

There are three different versions of the social stories:

  • Clean Intermittent Catheterization for Females
  • Clean Intermittent Catheterization for Males
  • Learning to Use a Cone Enema

The stories use child-friendly language and include pictures so children can become more comfortable with what the tools look like, how they are used, and where the routines are performed.

Social stories can be a great support in helping children prepare for other procedures and surgeries, or even big life event changes such as a move or starting at a new school.

Our therapists are distributing these stories in clinic, so please ask for one at your next visit if you think this would be helpful for your child! 

PT profile: The importance of tummy time

By Kristen Weiss Lincul, PT, DPT, PCS

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that babies sleep on their back to reduce the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). In addition, most babies spend most of the day on their backs while they are awake. Tummy time is a great way to introduce a new position to your baby!

Tummy time has many benefits. It will help strengthen neck and back muscles, as well as help decrease pressure on the back of the head to prevent formation of flat spots. 

Tummy time also allows a baby to see and interact in their environment, and helps increase upper body strength. Upper body strength is especially important in patients with spina bifida since it may help in the future with walking with an assistive device.

Here are some easy ways to do tummy time at home:

  • Use a towel or blanket roll and prop them on their elbows
  • Try tummy time with your baby on your chest if you are laying back
  • Use your legs to prop your baby on their belly
  • Try tummy time over an exercise ball
  • Try using light-up toys, musical toys or mirrors
  • Pets and siblings are also great for motivation

Try multiple times during the day with a goal of working up to one hour total. As your baby improves, encourage them to lift their head up high and reach for toys.

Tummy time is an important part of baby development and should always be fun!

Ask your PT about more ways to help your baby at home.

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