Most children with ADNP, a rare neurodevelopmental genetic disorder, never learn to swim. So, when 4-year old Zella was swimming alongside her peers, before she could even walk, her parents knew their regular use of Otteroo was the cause.
Her mother, Amanda Eichenberger, shares with us how Otteroo and a love for water have changed Zella's life.
Zella is both physically and developmentally delayed. Did you ever think she'd be swimming on a swim team at the age of 4?
Our physical therapist mentioned early on Zella's motivation while in the water. She kinda laughed and said, "Wouldn't it be funny if she swam before she walked?" And, I was like, that would be just like Zella to do something completely backwards. It was all in jest because a lot of kids with ADNP syndrome never swim. Some of them do, but they learn late, because they learn everything late. So, it was crazy to see her peers, her neurotypical peers reach that same milestone around the same time. She's never been on time for anything, but with swimming she was.
Why do you think her experiences in the Otteroo caused that?
I do think the Otteroo has dramatically helped just because she always has her arms and legs free. Even a kid like Zella, who is not legitimately walking, was able in the Otteroo to be working out those legs and those arms. She was doing swim-like motions the entire time which was great because when you have a child with a disability, they're already limited in so many ways, to find something that allowed her to capitalize on the things that she did have, that was awesome, totally great.
Now that Zella is swimming you no longer use the Otteroo, but how often did you use it?
We used it fairly religiously since she was about one year old. Zella loves the water so much, which is actually a phenotype for the syndrome. So many of the kids with ADNP are obsessed with being in the water, drinking the water, you name it. They just love anything that has to do with water.
Your husband is a pediatrician. What did he say when you said you were going to strap a plastic float around your daughter's neck?
Well, first and foremost, he's a former swimmer and swim coach, so he was totally all for it. He said anything that gets her in the water we are good with.
And how did her therapist react?
She loved it so much, she recommended it to the little girl who has therapy before Zella. She's like, "You've got to buy this Otteroo that Zella uses." She has recommended it to other patients and they are using it for aqua therapy as well.
Zella's little brother Penn, 1 year old, now uses the Otteroo too.