November 26, 2012

Dyspraxia and Hippotherapy

This is a guest post by my friend.

Bethany's Story

We were so excited to be starting a family.  My husband and I had been married for three years, just bought a house, and were financially secure.   This was the “perfect” time.  Of course I knew it might take a little longer because I had PCOS, but it took two years, two miscarriages, and a ton of medications and doctor’s appointments before we finally became pregnant with our children.

Our first appointment was at 6 weeks and we were overjoyed when they found two sacks!  We went back the next week and heard two heartbeats but the complications had already began.  The second baby (baby B as they call it with twins) seemed to be a few days behind baby A.  As the pregnancy progressed,  the gap between the twins widened.  Baby B was missing an artery in her umbilical cord. While most infants have three, she only had two but the doctors assured me that she would still obtain the needed nutrients. In the end, our B baby (which we named Bethany) was about 10 days behind her brother.  The doctors were perplexed.  At first they thought there might be something wrong.  We “passed” the initial screenings for disorders, and we decided not to go further with any genetic testing.  It didn’t matter.  We were happy to have our two miracles no matter how it turned out.  As you can imagine though, I was a nervous wreck though most of the pregnancy! She was eventually diagnosed with IUGR (Intrauterine Growth Restriction).  The twins were delivered via emergency C-section at 37 weeks when it was discovered that she had not grown since my 35 week appointment.  

While the birth was not ideal, both children appeared healthy.  They couldn’t find anything “wrong” with either of them. Bethany weighed 4lbs 15oz.  She was a little peanut – the cutest little peanut I had ever seen.  
The first few months were pure joy.  Bethany was always at the 10th percentile for weight, but was holding her own.  She had reached her developmental milestones at appropriate ages (holding her head up, rolling over, etc) until about 8 months when I really started to question if there was something “off” about our little girl.  She wasn’t able to sit up without support yet.  She had a hard time regulating herself. When she got upset, she couldn’t calm down.  I had to teach her how to self-soothe.  As she got older, we noticed she was sitting in a W position.
W leg position
Then as we saw other children her age begin to say words, we noticed she wasn’t.  A few months before her second birthday, we decided to get her tested.  The testing confirmed our suspicions – Bethany’s language was significantly delayed, and so were some of her motor skills.  She began the Early Intervention services of speech, OT, and then later, PT.  The words came, very slowly.  I waited and waited for her to be able to tell me she loved me.  It came just before her 3rd birthday.  I knew she was smart.  It was in there, but it couldn’t come out!  On top of that she was clumsy.  She looked like a wrecking ball at times.  Through the hard work of our therapists, and through our own diligence we finally got a diagnosis… Dyspraxia.

Dyspraxia is a developmental disorder that affects motor movements.  The signals going from the brain to the muscles don’t work quite right.  They need to be trained, with a lot of repetition, to learn the appropriate patterns.  In Bethany’s case, this accounted for her language delay, poor articulation, and “clumsiness.” 

At three years old, Bethany attends a special education preschool where she gets speech 4 times a week, OT twice a week, and PT once a week. She STILL cannot sit up without sitting in a W (which is making her pelvis tilt and could affect her posture/alignment), or sitting with something behind her.  She can’t cross her legs in front of her to sit like the others can because of her low tone (lack of core muscles) and the tightness in her inner thighs.  She often cries through PT because the stretches she needs to do hurt. Since she only gets it once a week, we have to do exercises at home and constantly nag her about the way she is sitting.  I feel bad always having to be “on” her and focusing on what she can’t do.  She is such a sweet girl, but she’s also sensitive.  We want her to do well, but we don’t want her to realize her limitations or to feel bad because she has to be directed so much.

Bethany has always been such a caring and nurturing person. Early on, we learned that she has a love for animals and we are blessed to live in an area obsessed with horses.  When I saw her on her first pony ride it came to me - hippotherapy! My goal was to find something that Bethany could excel in and feel good about and here was the perfect opportunity to do just that.  There is a local hippotherapy program for persons with developmental disabilities.  It’s run by a PT who knows how to get the most out of each session.  Some might ask why is riding a horse considered therapy?  Riding a horse will work all of Bethany’s areas of weaknesses. Bethany will have to stretch before getting on the horse, one of her least favorite things to do. Though this can be painful, the motivation of what is to come will help her to do her best.  Once on the horse, she cannot W sit,  her pelvis can not tilt and her feet and legs must be in a  forward position.  Three things we constantly work on with her.  Horseback riding also requires a great deal of balance, which is obtained through using the core muscles, her weakest area. That will, in turn, help her progress in the other areas.

Hippotherapy is still considered “experimental” by insurance companies and is not covered. The therapy is expensive and we will have to pay for it out of pocket. But, seeing Bethany improve in her fine and gross motor skills and her self esteem is worth the cost. We plan to pay for it through scholarship grants, if we are deemed eligible, volunteering at the stable and financial support from our families. However, that will still not be enough. Please browse my facebook page, Bethany's Hippotherapy,  and consider placing a bid on an item. We will be posting 1-2 items a week for the next few weeks. We will be auctioning off necklaces, a bracelet, a plaque, and magnets.  All are horse themed and hand made by me (Bethany will help with the plaque) and would make great Christmas gifts! All proceeds will go towards Bethany’s therapy. Thank you so much for reading Bethany’s story and for your support in helping her reach her greatest potential!


  1. OMG! What A Beautiful Story & God Bless this Little Girl who was wanted & Loved from The Start!
    Your right she is smart & Now she will have a way to get it out now...Thank God for gifted Parents that she was bless with!
    Amen & God Bles..<3

  2. Just read this beautiful story of "Little Bethany". How lucky she was to have a mother who knew something was "off" and pursued to find the answers. Her smile certainly shows she has a joyful soul. I certainly hope that the hippotherapy will help this beautiful little girl. God bless her and her family and I hope that your efforts to offset the cost is successful.

  3. She can ride for free anytime at Uncle Art's house.

  4. What a beautiful story about a little girl who was so very much wanted - I give credit to her mother for knowing something was "off" and made sure she followed through with her gut. Sounds like Bethany is getting good care thanks to her mom. I hope that she is able to give her the therapy on the horse. Even though it sounds expensive somehow all parents manage to provide and Bethany's mom sounds like she is pretty determined. God Bless you all


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