Let’s start by clearing up some misconceptions – I’ve heard so many in the past few weeks!
While the helmet may in fact protect Colten’s noggin from bumps, lumps and brothers, that is not the purpose of it. Someone out there does actually make little padded hats (they resemble the early version of football helmets, in my opinion) to protect babies during the early stages of crawling/cruising/walking, but that is NOT the case with this. Any “safety” protection he gets from this is just added bonus. Considering he tested this out by repeatedly banging the back of his helmeted head on a wooden kitchen chair on day #1, we are confident it will prove useful in his case. No, the helmet is not for protection. It is for CORRECTION. We are trying to get Colten’s head to stop elongating. It is very narrow side to side, extremely narrow in the back (should be wider), and resembles a football. (I am not intentionally referencing football here repeatedly but seeing as that season is upon us, maybe I’ll score some points with the husband). His head shape is called scaphocephalic, or you could say he has scaphocephaly. At least that’s how I’ve heard it used.
The helmet does not get cranked tighter, such as in the case of teeth braces or other orthodontic devices. The helmet will actually get slightly larger as we go, since his head needs to continue growing. What it does is provide a stopping point for the front and back growth. The helmet fits him perfectly front to back. By restricting the head from growing further in that direction, it forces the growth (hopefully) side to side. This should help reshape him into a more rounded head.
The simple question that I have been asked perfectly by no less than three children in the last 24 hours is: Why does he have that helmet on?
The simple answer is: His skull bones aren’t growing properly, so the helmet is going to help them grow the right way.
That was easy, right?!
Colten actually received his helmet yesterday. When we were taken back to the exam room, Mark, the orthotist, asked in a concerned way, “Are you ready for this?” I chuckled and said, “I think of all the devices this child may need, this is the one I’ll be best prepared for!” We knew he needed it, we knew it was coming, and we knew it would be a pain in the butt (figuratively), but that it shouldn’t be a pain in the head (literally). And we know it’s a temporary device. As for what other devices may be in Colten’s future, we have no idea. But something tells me it will be harder for us to start dealing with braces, walkers, crutches, or wheelchairs. Those aren’t necessarily temporary.
The helmet is a hard plastic shell lined with what appears and feels like a very dense foam layer. When Mark put the helmet on him the first time it fit great front to back. You could clearly see the open space left on either side of his head though. The helmet is shaped like a “typical” head should be shaped. Mark explained that he would fill the open areas with a very soft foam so that the helmet didn’t shift around. It needs to fit snugly. What he expects to see at the follow-up visit is this foam more condensed. This proves that Colten’s head is expanding into the foam areas – a good thing, and reshaping to conform to the helmet. As his head presses more into the foam padding, we can remove some of the soft layers to allow for more expansion in those areas. All the while keeping just the harder foam at the front/back. The head will continue to grow overall, it just is being restricted front to back.
After Mark placed the appropriate amount of foam, he placed the helmet back on Colten. Colten touched it a couple of times then went back to his toys. He grabbed at it once in the car as we left. Mark provided us a few pages of instructions, including tips on weaning a child into a helmet (small blocks of a couple hours on, then off, then nap time, then bedtime). The goal is to work them up to the 23 hours per day. Yes, that’s right, they get ONE hour without the helmet per day. Basically enough time to clean the child’s head and the helmet and let both dry! Colten was so amazingly cooperative I was curious how long he would last. I did remove it for about an hour shortly after his helmet appointment because he had treadmill therapy and frankly, forcing a kid to “walk” on a treadmill while wearing a helmet that makes his head sweat? That’s just cruel. We put it back on afterwards and he wore it the rest of the day. We took it off for another hour in the evening for a cleaning, and his brother Max managed to pull it off him briefly as well. We even put him to bed in it. And today he had it on all day except for one hour. Napped in it and is now sleeping in it. He seems to be stirring a bit more at night last night and tonight, but he’s a CHAMP. He has barely touched it all today and doesn’t seem to mind a bit. I have to credit Mark for making his helmet just right. He has one spot that turns a bit red on his forehead but the redness reduces shortly after the helmet is off. He seems quite content, don’t you think?!
Mark wants to follow-up in two weeks. Because Colten is already over 10 months, he doesn’t have a ton of readjustment time. A younger infant, 3-5 months, can go six weeks between adjustments because even if the reshaping isn’t perfect, there’s still time to adjust. Colten doesn’t have that so we need to keep tabs on the changes. Also of concern is that the reshaping doesn’t cause an issue with his shunt (for hydrocephalus). And that’s about it. We aren’t putting any time frames on the helmet because we’ve heard so many different estimates for how long he’ll be in it. My response to “how long” will be, “until his head isn’t reshaping any further.”
On a very off-topic note, a huge congratulations to my husband, Richard, who was recently offered a science teaching job at a private school on the east side of the state!!! SO VERY EXCITED FOR HIM – FOR US! We are in chaos mode here though, because our wonderful nanny is done working for us for the summer and Richard is commuting about an hour and a half each day for work (they started yesterday!) and I have quite a few projects I’m scheduled to be working on. So while I am excited to spend some more time with all these boys, I still have my own clients to tend to somewhere in there. We are looking to move sometime this fall so he can stop commuting, there are just a lot of logistics to work out: where exactly to move to, when to move, how to seamlessly continue servicing my local (Lansing-area) clients, what preschool to send Parker to, what sort of childcare help we’ll need, if we’ll get a second vehicle, and on and on and on! In other words, unless we have some major changes, I’m thinking there won’t be another blog post in a while. Let’s hope that’s that case, for our sake, right?!
Thanks for following along our adventure. We hope you are enjoying yours as much as Colten is enjoying his!