Physical Therapist Uses Otteroo to Help Daughter With Down Syndrome

Mandy Woodman first saw the Otteroo on her friend’s Facebook page. She was pregnant with her third daughter and thought she might buy it for her new baby. When her daughter, Lucy, was unexpectedly born with Down syndrome, Mandy and her husband, a physical therapist, bought it knowing it could help with her low muscle tone.

Lucy’s dad now regularly takes her to the pool to work on muscle strength in the Otteroo. Mandy tells us about it.

As a physical therapist, what did your husband think of the Otteroo?

I actually showed it to him when I saw it on Facebook. He was like ‘that would be a great physical therapy tool for her because of her low muscle tone.’ We can work with her and her hands and arms would be free. Because other floaties, they kind of stop there, and they’re just sitting in, they’re not really doing much. But with this, her arms and legs are free and he could do different therapy things with her. So he thought it was really neat and a really good idea.

But already this summer, it’s just night and day with how much more she’s moving and wanting to try in the water – because outside the water she doesn’t like to do so much because she’s just got such low tone. But she really tries to do the exercising and stuff that he does with her in the water. She likes it a lot with the floatie, so that’s cool.

What kind of therapy does your husband do with Lucy?

He actually will take her to the pool with him and do some physical therapy with her in the water. She really likes it. We’ve only been out a little bit this summer; last year her health wasn’t as good, so we weren’t able to do it as much. But already this summer, it’s just night and day with how much more she’s moving and wanting to try in the water – because outside the water she doesn’t like to do so much because she’s just got such low tone. But she really tries to do the exercising and stuff that he does with her in the water. She likes it a lot with the floatie, so that’s cool.

What does she do in the water?

She was full on kicking her feet, and putting her hands in the water, and splashing the water, and playing with her sisters, laughing, giggling, just having the time of her life with it, so it was really cool to see that this year. She’s come miles from last year.

But with the floatie on, she’s just like one of her sisters. They have the floaties on too, and they’re all just by each other laughing, giggling, watching. And we feel safe with her aspiration, because the water doesn’t really even get to face at all, and she loves it. It’s really fun.

I bet it’s fun for the whole family to be in the water together.

Yes, exactly. Otherwise, we’re just holding her, and you’re kind of scared, because she doesn’t feel secure, she’s just being held by us in this water. But with the floatie on, she’s just like one of her sisters. They have floaties on too, and they’re all just by each other laughing, giggling, watching. And we feel safe with her aspiration, because the water doesn’t really even get to her face at all, and she loves it. It’s really fun.

How is that different to your experiences before the Otteroo?

I think she was probably about ten months old when we started taking her to the pool with her sisters, and she would just kind of sit on the side, and just kind of watch them, and when we would hold her in the water, she was just so floppy that it was really hard to do much with her in the water. And then she also, because of her low tone and some other genetic issues, she has aspiration when she swallows, and so we were really careful of the water with her, and getting anything in her mouth and her choking and it going to her lungs. So I remembered about the Otteroo that I had seen online, and so I was like ‘Oh, we should try that!’

It was the first time she was actually in the water and could be in the water and we felt safe, especially because the tube just surrounded her whole face so no water or anything was getting in there, even close to her.

What was her first experience like?

I think she was ten, eleven months old, we put her in the bath, and it was just hilarious. She just grabbed her little feet and just looked like this little blob just floating around in the water, but she liked it. It was the first time she was actually in the water and could be in the water and we felt safe, especially because the tube just surrounded her whole face so no water or anything was getting in there, even close to her. So then we tried it at the pool later with her sisters, and she was more hesitant because it was bigger surroundings and everything, but, she just would float around with her sisters, and hold her little feet, and just kind of bob around with them in the pool like a little blob, but she was actually out there by herself (well, with us out there swimming), but more than just sitting on the side watching her sisters. So that was really neat.

Julie Forbes

Julie Kroenig Forbes graduated Magna Cum Laude from the University of Missouri School of Journalism. She spent the next 10 years working as a news anchor and reporter in various cities, most recently in Nashville, Tennessee. After a few years in Northern California and New York, she now lives in Ohio with her husband and four kids.
Julie Forbes

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