When Leslie Hughan’s toddler twins were born in the fall of 2016, she was only 24 weeks and 6 days into pregnancy. The babies weighed 1 pound 11 ounces and 1 pound 15 ounces when they were born. Because of their extreme prematurity, they have faced a lot of challenges, including cerebral palsy, a disorder which affects movement and muscle tone.
Before they turned 1, they had 10 surgeries between the two of them and about 200 hospital days each. Leslie wrote to tell us how much the Otteroo has benefited their lives and we wanted to find out more.
Tell us about your twins and the complications they've faced.
Given their history, both twins are developmentally delayed. The smaller twin, a girl, had some gastrointestinal issues and now has an ileostomy (she poops into a bag attached to her stomach). The larger twin, a boy, had brain bleeds following his birth and has hydrocephalus which leads to cerebral palsy (CP). While he continues to make improvements with physical and occupational therapies, he has limited head and trunk control, and is not mobile.
What made you buy an Otteroo?
We are a family who likes to swim, so this spring I reached out to a Facebook group of parents who have children with CP because I was looking for recommendations on a good pool float for my son. I wanted something that would be compatible with his poor head and trunk control. A few parents recommended a neck ring. I remembered another mom from a twin Facebook group posted a photo of her boys using Otteroos in the tub, so I turned to your website to browse. Then I turned to Google to do some research related to safety.
I won't lie, I initially thought Otteroo was weird and looked like a terrible accident waiting to happen. I think I Googled something like, "Otteroo death trap." My search lead me to an article on your blog. I found the post honest and a little funny. I've always respected companies that acknowledge and address their proverbial elephants. After reading your blog and considering the recommendations about neck rings for CP kiddos, I figured Otteroo was worth a try.
What were their first reactions to the Otteroo?
The first time our boy twin used Otteroo was in the tub and he cried. I don't know if it was having something around his neck (he isn't too fond of bibs, either) or if the water was just too cold. The second time he used it, I made sure the bath water was super warm and there were no tears.
Our girl twin first used the Otteroo in our kid pool in the back yard. She was not a fan of the ring because she hates the water (she also hates baths).
Our son recently started to army crawl on the floor. It could just be coincidence but I like to think it's related to using the Otteroo.
How do the twins use the Otteroo differently now?
Our boy twin loves the water (bath or pool) thanks to his Otteroo. Being in the water is his happy place because moving in the water is easier and Otteroo gives him the ability to move independently like he wants.
Our girl twin who I thought hated her Otteroo will bring her ring over after her brother puts on his ring. For her, I think it's more of a me-too action. She still hates to have her body in water but will walk around the kid pools with her ring around her neck, patting the water with her hands to make it splash. And if she loses her balance, her Otteroo prevents her from face planting in the pool, which works for me.
Have you noticed any changes in development in your child with cerebral palsy?
Because the Otteroo puts his whole body in water, I noticed he started getting therapeutic benefits from his baths — his arms and legs were less stiff in the days after baths. After the first few uses, he started to realize he could move his arms and legs by himself in the water, which made him pretty happy. After a few months, not only could he scoot around the tub, but I could flip him onto his tummy and he could crawl in the tub — that was a big day for us.
Our son recently started to army crawl on the floor. It could just be coincidence but I like to think it's related to using the Otteroo — maybe he's able to learn a new motion in the tub, to have that movement fire in his brain, and because of his aquatic success, have the extra determination he needs to try it on dry land.
What do you tell other parents about the Otteroo?
I tell everyone, “I love Otteroo.” I tell them just how amazing Otteroo is for our son. I could go on and on about how it has provided joy and independence to our son. The older he gets, the more aware he is of his limitations, and for him to have something that helps level the playing field, even if it's just in the water ... it's huge.
My son isn't afraid of the water the way my other children were at that age. In addition to the twins, I have two more children, 8 and 5. When my older kids were toddlers they had the traditional sit-the-baby-in-a-ring-around-the-waist floats and they developed this nervousness and wanted to be held in the water. The twins don't seem to have that.
Long story short, Otteroo is amazing.