Teaching Transitions: trampolines and stairs

Ronan holding his trampoline

Ronan’s trampoline

Ronan has always been a strong baby and keen to move. He has been sitting since 5 months, could maintain (and rock!) in a crawling position since 6 months. He was also happy to walk with support from 8 months. He could even rock his rocking horse by himself at 10 months. As he was surpassing everyone’s expectations for mobility, we did not think much about it.

At 10 months however, he still was not moving his head from side to side. I mentioned this to the Occupational Therapist who decided to refer him to the Physiotherapist. He was seen by a Physiotherapist at 14 months. While he was moving his head well by then, she noted that he never transitioned. If he wanted to get to lying to sitting or sitting to standing, he hauled himself up while holding onto someone’s thumbs without ever bending his knees.

Transitioning is the way in which children move from lying to sitting or sitting to standing. When lying on their back, children should bring both legs to one side near their heads and then use their hands to push to a sitting positioning. In getting to standing, they should move into a side sitting position (check google images for demonstration) and then into a half kneeling positioning. It is through learning these types of movement that a child can start to move about independently in a play space, pulling up to standing and sitting again.

Incorporating transitions into a child’s movement patterns helps to develop the rotation in the hips that give a child a normal gate. This is particularly important for blind children who rarely crawl and therefore can end up with a very wide stance, stiff legs, and toes pointed out. Teaching them may also be necessary because blind children do not see other children moving ergonomically and learn vicariously.

The first transition that we taught Ronan was to go from lying to sitting. We were instructed to bring his legs to one side, which quickly prompted him to try to sit. It took about three days for him to learn this and about two months to do it without effort. Next we started working on moving from sitting to standing. We shifted his weight into the side sitting position and then he tried to stand up. This took closer to two months to master.

One of our substantial challenges was getting Ronan to hold onto things rather than quickly seeking out our thumbs and hauling himself up any which way. Our first break through was when we bought him a baby trampoline (TP Little Bouncer). While he did not like the trampoline part, he loved the handle. He could grab onto the handle and inch his hands up until he got to the handle grips. The next thing we tried was the stairs. I showed him how to put his knee up and he went straight to the top. We were so surprised when we discovered that Ronan loved climbing the stairs.

Once Ronan became comfortable with the trampoline and stairs, he started climbing on everything. We set up his play area with some trunks and the stored travel cot at a corner to each other so that he could move up and down and from one to the other. The trampoline was soon abandoned after a few weeks, but Ronan was properly mobile.

We have also noticed that after Ronan started transitioning, he quickly changed his sitting positioning from the “long” position with legs straight (and by consequence hunched back) to having his knees slightly bent and his spine straight. He also stopped rocking on his rocking horse, suggesting that his ability to move around his play area on his own was giving him the movement he was craving. Gone are the days when he can be left in the play area without supervision 🙂

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