Occupational Therapist Registered/Licensed – Infant Developmental Specialist – MNRI Core-In-Training
Lake Worth, Florida
Parker was born late preterm at 35 weeks and 6 days via spontaneous birth. He was average weight for gestational age, weighing 5lb 4oz and 19 inches long. Thankfully he was healthy and did not require a stay in the NICU during our hospitalization. However, his journey was traumatic starting with the 2-day stay I had in the hospital at 31 weeks due to preterm labor. I had high levels of stress associated with the possibility of having a premature baby. I was given multiple medications to stop preterm labor including IV Magnesium and Terbutaline injections (which later I found out had a black box warning by the FDA in 2011 and research in 2014 indicated associated risks for developmental disorders with infants). Luckily my preterm labor had subsided enough to be discharged from hospital where I remained on bed rest for another 5 weeks on daily Procardia. I had a precipitous (<3 hours) labor, which started with a slow leak and then full-blown labor after my water spontaneously broke in triage. The culmination of trauma ended with delivery when he needed vacuum extraction assistance due to having terminal decelerations in his heart rate and my inability to push effectively from heightened levels of stress.
Parker was lethargic his first month of life which contributed to an undocumented diagnosis of failure to thrive. I was determined to continue to give him a diet of exclusive breast milk knowing all the benefits for his brain and immune development. I nursed, pumped, and bottle fed averaging around 16 feedings a day with virtually no sleep. But it worked! He finally gained weight and began reaching his growth curve around 6 months old.
However, my son’s weight gain was not my biggest concern. As a pediatric occupational therapist, I had concerns very early on (around two months) that were not visualized by his pediatrician. Parker would startle easily, his hands and feet were almost always sweaty, his hands were clenched with his thumbs inside his palms, he looked only to right side, never brought his left hand to his mouth, and his head was misshapen.
I was fortunate to have taken an introduction class (Postural and Dynamic Primary Reflex Integration) through the SMEI (Svetlana Masgutova Educational Institute) that helped me recognize several primary reflexes that had improperly developed in early infancy. Since I did not have much training in the application of the MNRI method (Masgutova Neurosensorimotor Reflex Integration) at that time, I sought help in all directions. Parker initiated craniosacral therapy at four months old and immediately we started noticing changes. He started bringing his left hand to his mouth, his head shape started to improve, and he started smiling more. While we were ecstatic with these improvements, we noticed his motor milestones and social skills were still delayed. At nine months old he was not attempting to crawl or pull up to a standing position, had very weak head control with his head falling back when pulled to sitting position or on the swing, and he only rolled to one side. He was also fearful of most everything and he barely laughed.
We wanted the very best for Parker, so we took him to the best. He received a private primary reflex integration assessment by Dr. Masgutova, creator of MNRI program. Dr. Masgutova indicated that Parker had many primary reflexes that were dysfunctional and some pathological which were contributing to his motor, speech, and social delays. She recommended an intense home program which involved integration exercises for 26 primary reflexes that were improperly developed.
Grateful that I had taken some introductory classes, I was able to perform most of the priority exercises with him myself. The rest were done with a physical therapist who was also trained in the MNRI method. Parker learned to crawl within one week of beginning his therapy and the rest of the missed milestones came soon after with him learning to walk by thirteen months old. Parker continued physical therapy with primary reflex integration focus due to continued difficulties with balance, core strength, weakness and overall delayed gross motor skills until he was four years old. During this time, we noticed our son also had difficulties going to new places, was very shy and deliberately avoided getting messy during activities.
Fast forward to today. Parker is now seven years old in a typical 2nd grade class. He makes friends wherever he goes, loves to play outside (especially in the dirt) and is racing BMX competitively.
I believe 100% that Parker’s success is due to the early intervention he received starting in infancy with consistent MNRI intervention. I often think what Parker would have been like if I hadn’t recognized these early signs and he didn’t receive therapy. Based on my experience, I think he would have had lifelong developmental delays and possibly be on the autism spectrum.
My son is a success story. I share this because I want other families to have success stories too. My recommendation is to trust your gut, look for these early red flags, and seek early intervention before delays are identified.
Do you love birth? Heck yeah you do!
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