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When our second son was born, everything was perfect.  We were so blessed to have made it this far in our pregnancy (they induced me early because of a hard pregnancy and IUGR, low fluid, etc…)    When he was born, he had had a little trouble breathing at the beginning and his blood sugar was very low, but overall he did great with the delivery and was doing well (four pounds, 12 ounces, born at 37 weeks).Soon, we learned that our terribly hard pregnancy had actually led to some problems with his development.  He was having trouble latching on (I exclusively pumped & bottle fed him for a year) and at our Lactation Consultant’s meeting, she told me that she thought that he had hypertonia.   I am still amazed that this was overlooked by so many, but she picked up on it.   His body was stiff- he was like a brick.  It was almost like he had a board in his shirt.   He couldn’t open his mouth very wide and he couldn’t lift his arms above his head (not even close) or rotate his torso.  His toes were curled the opposite way and his hands were always clenched.  This little four pounder was so stiff.   (I’ll write more on this another day because it is really under-written about.

I wish that someone had written about it when we were going through it).  She was right, he had hypertonicity (read that story here because it has a great ending!)- a diagnosis that we would soon become very familiar with, (it means high muscle tone.)  We didn’t know what his life would be like.  They had given us so many “outcomes” from “he will never walk or talk” to “he might just have a few minor delays”.It was scary, stressful, overwhelming and sad.  When we learned all of this, our pediatrician referred us to a neurologist in Concord, NC.  The neurologist told us (when our son was just a few months old) that we should start therapy as early as possible because therapy has the ability to re-wire a child’s brain, helping them to re-learn things or to learn them for the first time with such a huge ‘jump-start’ in life, compared to if we had decided not to have therapy.So, with that, we jumped aboard the therapy train.  We called our local CDSA  (You can see a guide to the referral process here) and they sent out someone to test our son and once he qualified for services, we began receiving play therapy with a local company, Learning Connections Unlimited.  Later, we added PT, OT and speech/feeding therapy as well.

I saw, first hand, the wonderful things that therapy was doing for our child and I decided then and there that I was going to help other children the way that therapy had helped our son.   I took my elementary education college degree to the next level and earned my certification in play therapy (also known as CBRS).
What is play therapy?
It is just what it sounds like – therapy through play.  We help children reach their goals through “play”.   Our son’s play therapist, Lauren, was the most wonderful person to come into our home, because she offered support, advice and therapy all at the same time.   I truly felt blessed to have such a wonderful system in place through play therapy and I love offering the same thing to my own therapy clients.
What we do, as play therapists:
“Provide a home based holistic approach to intervention which is child directed and fun for the child. Most of a child’s intellectual development occurs between birth and four years, this is the prime time for intervention. We have experience working with children with developmental delays, Autism, Down Syndrome, Language delays, Duplication of 9p, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, Sensory Integration Issues, hydrocephalus, and premature babies.” (this is taken right from the LCU webpage)

Play therapy is so beneficial!
If you have a minute, I recommend that you read this on the importance of playing with your child.  You can also download THIS great resource from a company that I work with for therapy (Learning Connections Unlimited).

If your child is not receiving services, I highly suggest that you have your child tested (for free) through the CDSA (find out how to do that here).    They will tell you if your child qualifies (if you think that they need therapy, they will more than likely qualify- trust your instincts.)    They will tell you if you will owe a fee for services (medicaid families will not owe anything and other families will be on a sliding scale, so you may owe just 5% of the services of more.  It depends on your income, but you may be presently surprised!)Use the search bar on this website to find a local CDSA near you to have your child tested:  CDSA (early intervention).  If your child qualifies, they can match you up with a therapist or you can request one.  If your child is over three, many companies (this one included) will still work with you on your child’s therapy, privately.

Play Therapy is just the first step in your path towards helping your child to achieve so many goals!  You are your child’s first advocate and as my Mom always tells me:  “You are your child’s voice” so speak up and do what is best for your child!
I understand where you are in your journey and I know the fear and uncertainty that can come with a diagnosis for your child.   I am blessed to be able to help our child and others and I hope that I was able to help you today, too.Your child will reach the expectations that you place in front of him/her.   Pray for your child, encourage your child and help your child… and they will amaze you every day!  Just have a little faith.  
If you would like to read our story of how our child came through his diagnosis to be the amazing child that he is today, read this post: Teach your Child.   I feel so blessed when I read this and remember the road that we have traveled and how great it has turned out.
how god uses mothers
If you are looking for a few ideas- here is a post on things that you can do at home to ‘ Help toddler with a speech delay’  and see my Kids Activities category for more ideas.   I also have a Play Therapy Pinterest Board and a few about Kids that I try to pin some therapy ideas.  Follow me on Pinterest HERE.
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what is play therapy

Hi there!

I’m Becky, a former elementary school teacher turned certified child development therapist and blogger. I work at home with my husband and together we are raising (and partially homeschooling) our four children in the Carolinas. I love diet coke, ice cream, and spending time with my family.

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  1. When our daughter finally came home at eight months old after being in the hospital or the Ronald McDonald House for all but about four weeks of her life, we were provided with play therapy at home. It was, by far, an amazing two years for her. They helped her progress so much and I really believe it is because of them that she is currently (four years later) on track cognitively, emotionally and developmentally. I can’t recommend it enough! Thanks for sharing and thanks for becoming a play therapist. Miracle workers, I say!

    1. I agree- when we had our play therapist, she was so wonderful and just the support that she offered to ME, let alone our son, was great. Thanks fomr sharing, Sue!

  2. My daughter was able to work with several therapists from birth to age 3. Although she aged out and still has some speech delay, I was so thankful to learn more about how I could support her development at home. I’m an elementary teacher as well, but it’s amazing how different it is to teach our tiniest learners. 🙂 So glad you followed a new path, inspired by your personal experience. 🙂

  3. Love this article! I think sometimes Therapy can sound therapy to a new parent but it is so essential to get started as early as possible.

  4. This is a great post. I am an early childhood special educator in CA. My credential covers children with mild, moderate and severe disabilities from birth to 5 years old. I currently teach a special education preschool class for the local school district.

    When my youngest daughter was born everything seemed fine as well. However, by about 3 months old I knew that something was not right. Unlike your son, though, my daughter turned out to have hypotonia. She was and still is “floppy” and hyper flexible. It is no problem for her to place her feet next to her ear. When you pick her up she melts into your support. She is the opposite of stiff and rigid, which proved to have its own set of problems.

    For awhile I listened to people, including her Pediatrician, say that she was just a ” lazy” baby and that there was nothing wrong. The problem was she was not hitting her developmental milestones on time. And I, of all people, knew what this could mean. My worst fears were playing out in my mind.

    By her 9 month check up with her doctor I basically demanded a referral for a PT evaluation. Within 3 minutes of seeing my daughter, the wonderful PT told me that she knew why my daughter was not sitting up on her own . . . She has benign congenital hypotonia. She will always have it her whole life but the PT thought she would be “ok”. She began Physical therapy almost immediately and we have been so pleased with her therapists and her progress. At one time, she was getting PT, OT and speech and language therapy.

    She began walking at 18 months which was one of the happiest days of my life! She started talking around 2 and hasn’t stopped! She is now two and a half and has made so much progress that she was recently dismissed from all services. I know for a fact that she would not have done this amazingly well without early start services. I trusted my mommy instinct and pursued an evaluation when everyone around me said she was fine. ALWAYS trust that instinct, especially if you have a little one under 5. It is such a vital period of time and your child’s mind can be changed and new connections made.

    1. Such an amazing story! Yes, they told us that he would be fine, etc… but we also pushed for the referral. I’m so glad to hear that our stories are so similar & completely opposite at the same time! haha!! You have a lot of fun memories ahead!! 🙂

    1. Its an amazing resource! I love it from all ends- as the parent to a child receiving therapy and now as the therapist giving the therapy.

  5. Hello, This the first time I have written anything (ever) on a blog board or online site. I have a four-month-old daughter who “I think” has hypotonia. I noticed from birth her feet weren’t straight, they turned inwards, she could essentially lap her feet. But I was told that is just how she was and they would straighten out. Fast forward to four months and they are still turned. She also keeps her fists closed 90% of the time up towards her shoulders. However, she can fully extend her right arm to pull her hair at the top and back of her head when she’s tired. We were referred to a PT who said she has very high muscle tone and presents like a baby with cerebral palsy. However, when doing the risk factor chart we rank extremely low. The only think I can think of is she was/is and IVF baby. So after doing research on my own I came across your story, and she seems to fit the same profile with a few minor differences. She is pretty rigid and does not/ cannot relinquish control easily. She strains to poop like she can’t/won’t let it go. She is a very heavy sleeper and prefers to sleep on her tummy that is the only time she relaxes fully. We are just in the beginning stages of all of this and haven’t gotten a diagnosis yet.

    I’m at a crossroads because her PT says she needs to be worked 3-4 times a day and at least 10 minutes of tummy time every hour. However, I work full time and can’t get to her and work with her during my hour lunch. My husband is a Drill Sergeant and is unable to get to her as well. We do pt in the morning before work and when we get home, but I don’t think that is enough. I think about quitting work and just stay home with her, but we can’t afford it. After spending close to $45,000 for Fertility Treatments, we are up to our neck in debt and I have to work. Any suggestions?

    1. ***correction***

      She can “clap” her feet. However, she can straighten her legs but can not raise them up to put her toes in her mouth. She does suck on her hands all day every day, so cute.

    2. That is exactly what happened with our son. They said that he presents as having CP, but now he is 7 and thanks to therapy, it is gone. We had therapy 5 days a week. I would go through your state to have early intervention services because they can go to your daycare, etc… and they will do services without you needing to be there. IT should be free or close to free. Just google Early Intervention Services for your state.

  6. I am a certified elementary teacher with my B.A. I have taught elementary school for years and for the last 7 years I have been a preschool teacher. I am interested in your certification in play therapy. Did you go back to graduate school and get a Masters degree in counseling with the play therapy certification added on? If you could please give me some information on this I would really appreciate it. Thank you.

    1. This varies state to state, but in most states, you need to have your degree in play therapy. Check with your state’s Early Intervention program. 🙂