Toddler With No Muscle Tone Is Able to Move in Otteroo

We were first introduced to Donna Cavanagh when she wrote about her son, Wyatt’s first Otteroo experience on Facebook. Her story tugged on all of our heartstrings. Here is a bit of what she had to say:

Wy’s prognostic picture is a dark one and I often times wonder if all the therapies and medications that are supposed to sustain his life and make him well are really robbing him of what minuscule shred of normalcy he is capable of having. Most hours of most days he is miserable. He demands to be held, he is uncooperative in therapy, he is either too hot or too cold, too floppy or too stiff and the milestones I once was certain he would eventually meet, have long been abandoned.

Even though most of Wyatt’s time is spent craving attention and defying my wishes for easiness, there are those moments that become one of my million and one happy memories to file away for a time when they will be much needed. Last night, for a whole 40 or so minutes, Wyatt was in rare form and I think he even surprised himself by figuring out he had limbs that aren’t meant to just dangle thanks to Mike and Terri Clark’s “magical” Jacuzzi. For 40 minutes, he did not want to be coddled and caressed, he didn’t arch his back in pain or annoyingly grind his teeth. For 40 minutes, he laughed and smiled and downright squealed in delight and I will go so far as to say it was the happiest I have ever seen him. It is the peak we found ourselves at last night that helps us get through those valleys and if we can find a way to maximize these good times, get a little more sleep and minimize the stress that comes with the territory of raising a profoundly disabled child amongst high energy able bodied children, everyone’s quality of life will increase exponentially and perhaps all the drugs and therapies won’t seem so futile. So basically what I am trying to say is that I think we now need, not only a complete bathroom renovation with a roman shower but we also need an outdoor Jacuzzi (for Wyatt of course). Check him out….

Donna Cavanagh discovered the Otteroo through a special-needs support group. Her son, Wyatt, suffers from hydrocephalus, he has no muscle tone, he’s blind, he has neuromuscular problems, he’s hearing-impaired, he has cerebral palsy, and he’s not able to perform any purposeful movements. All of that changes when he’s in the Otteroo.

Tell us about Wyatt’s first experience in the Otteroo.

The first time I used it, it was like he had the ability to move around. He was so excited! He was in a regular-sized bathtub, and he was really small (6 months old), and it was the first time I ever saw him purposefully, on his own, kick his legs. He was discovering that he could move for the first time.

Does he continue to enjoy it now at 28 months?

Every time we use it, he uses his legs to kick off the walls, so it’s opened up another door as far as mobility goes. He can’t move around when he’s not weightless. But, being in the water, he can move around and that gives him the freedom to move around on his own.

How does it make you feel seeing that?

It’s amazing! You spend 24 hours a day, 7 days a week providing 100% of his needs for him: picking him up to get him to the places he wants to go, helping him use his hands- he can’t even use his hands for anything. We lift up his arms: he doesn’t know how to touch anything, but he wants to. It’s so frustrating for him. So, being able to put him in something as easy as a tube in a pool of water, it’s like, for lack of a better term, having a “normal” child – a neurotypical child.

How does Wyatt react when in the Otteroo?

He loves it! He giggles and smiles. And that’s not a normal reaction for him to anything.

Do you recommend it to other parents who have children with special needs?

The topic comes up all the time about ‘How do you get your kids in the water? How do you get them to be more active?’ therapy questions, and I suggest it, amongst other people, all the time. We share pictures and links to the website because it’s been a valuable tool, and it’s so underpriced for what it provides. You don’t think how much it’s going to do for you.

How is it different from other devices you use for therapy?

Every device that we own that helps put him upright, or helps him do something, has straps and Velcro. It’s big and cumbersome. This is a nice alternative to that – to make him weightless, and have him upright and feel like he’s actually mobile.

You have two other children. How has the Otteroo changed your family dynamic?

It changes the way my kids are able to interact with their brother. They love him, they’re great with him, but they miss out on having a baby brother they can play with in a typical fashion, and that they can arouse feeling out of, like laughter. They can’t evoke that from him on a normal basis. So being able to put my 9-year-old daughter in a pool with her baby brother, and not have to worry, and she can pull him with her hands all around the pool, help him kick and to see that she’s doing something to him that he’s appreciating, it’s really nice to see. They don’t get that.  Usually, it’s just him crying. Or them trying to help me care for his daily needs. This is a way for them to interact with him playfully.

Julie Forbes

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. She now lives in Northern California with her husband and four kids.
Julie Forbes