Hi guys! It's Jess and welcome back to the blog! I am really excited about today's post because the information in it is something I wished I had as a reference back when Adeline was born. I felt so overwhelmed with the idea of having a child with special needs for a number of reasons. Having a birth diagnosis of Down Syndrome meant I was completely unprepared in every way possible. One of the things that made me panic was wondering if I had everything I needed for her. Would she require special toys, tools, resources etc. The answer to that is yes and no. Adeline is a baby first, and a child who happens to have down syndrome second. That said I have had to add a bit to my collection of toys and such but honestly not at all as much as I thought I would. I hope this little compilation of information is helpful.
I thought it would be good to separate this blog post into categories to keep it as organized as possible. Take a look below for my highlighted recommendations!
Toys and products
Age 0-3 Months
If I am being perfectly honest, toys were not even in the picture for the first three months of Adeline’s life. She basically slept 20 hours a day until she finally woke up in November lol! We did however, use a number of products during that time which helped a lot:
Sensory Activity Play Mat: Adeline has Hypotonia, which is essentially low muscle tone. Due to this, one of the first tips I received from Adeline's Physical Therapist was to put Adeline on a play mat as much as possible in place of a seat. My first born Charlee had a seat to sit in basically every room! With Addie, I laid her on this mat all throughout the day and she absolutely loved it. She really responded well to the contrasting colors and loved to look at the animals dangling above her. She also really started to notice her body and little limbs. This helped her tremendously with her physical growth and progression.
Manhattan Toy Infant Stim Mobile to Go Travel Toy: I can't tell you guys how awesome this little mobile was for Adeline. I took it everywhere with us. It was important to me that if Adeline had to be in her car seat (en route to yet another appt.) or stroller, that she was getting stimulated visually as much as she could be. I didn't want to over-stimulate her but again she slept all the time so that really wasn't a worry! She loved this thing!
Age 3-6 months
The Winkel: This toy was recommended to me by our Physical Therapist as well as our Occupational Therapist. It really is an awesome first toy. Adeline was not great at grasping for a little while and this toy allowed her to get the hang of it without dropping the toy. There were so many little places to grasp making it a wonderful hand grasp training tool.
The Noggin Stick: This toy was also great for learning to grasp. It lights up and has a mirror on the end making it super engaging. It also kind of hurt her little head when she accidentally bonked it against her noggin so that helped her realize that she shouldn't do that!
The house of Noa play mat : This play mat has been awesome for Adeline. I actually have it in the middle of our living room because it looks like a rug! It's stylish and a good size for play. We use is every day for her therapies and tummy time.
The Tushbaby: I wore this hip support band every day with Adeline. Due to her Hypotonia, I had to really support her in my arms for months. Only now (at 10 months) is she able to stabilize her core when I am holding her. I used this support seat every day only until just recently! Also, the leopard print is super cute!
Bumbo seat with tray: It took Adeline a lot longer to sit unassisted than neuro-typical kiddos. The Bumbo helped tremendously with this transition. I actually still use it once in a while if I am in a room with no soft mat in it. Her thighs are getting a little too chunky for it now though!
Ark Therapeutic z-vibe: I started using this oral stimulating device before I introduced purees. Adeline loved it and it really helped wake up her tongue before eating. I still use it once or twice a day as a toy. She likes to gnaw on it and it helps exercise her tongue.
Skip Hop Play table: I know play tables can be a bit controversial for kids with Hypotonia, but if you must have one this it the one. It has a great high back, and the base is not stable, forcing your baby to find their center of gravity. We limit Adeline's playtime in it to 2 times a day max for 30 minutes.
The Swing Thing: This is a new product that I just discovered but it is also a GAME CHANGER. I remember vividly being able to pop my older neuro-typical daughter Charlee into a shopping cart at around 6 months old, maybe even earlier! With Adeline that was just not an option due to her low muscle tone. Well, the swing thing changed all that. I bring this with me everywhere, and use it in shopping carts, high chairs, and swings. It's fabulous and a must-have in my book! Also, lucky for our readers, we have a 10% discount code. Use code EXTRALUCKYMOMS at checkout!
Resources & Community
I am still collecting a list of resources that have helped me so far on my journey as a special needs parent. Taryn and I hope to one day have a resource center on our Extra Lucky Moms! That said, I thought I'd highlight two things that have been super helpful for me.
Facebook support groups: The DSDN was a network I was introduced to via one of my therapists. It is a wonderful online platform for mother's and father's whose children have a Down Syndrome diagnosis. I was added to a birth group on Facebook and ended up connecting with many moms through that support group. There is a support group for everyone and anything. I would encourage you to reach out and see what is out there. Community support has helped me tremendously.
Marco Polo: Marco Polo has been another game changer for me as a Mother and a friend. It's basically a video voice message app. It has allowed me to get closer to a lot of the women in my support group. The best is that we can just respond to each other whenever works best for us. It's so hard to find a time to face time or sit and talk when you have kids. This app keeps me connected to those I love and care about when I have the time!
If I am being honest, books have not been super helpful for me thus far on my journey. They can be tremendously intimidating at times and I have had to be strategic in what I read as to not go into a spiral. That said there are a few books I wanted to share below:
The Congratulations Project is a wonderful book filled with handwritten, original letters from individuals with Down syndrome to expecting and new parents whose child has received the same diagnosis.
Gifts is a beautiful book filled with stories from Mothers who reflect on their lives with their children with Down Syndrome. You can pick it up and read a few chapters and it will leave you feeling hopeful and happy.
I hope you all enjoyed this little list I put together. There are SO many things to share but I wanted to start here. I look forward to continuing to share on this platform with all of you!