Hudson Valley Parent

HVP December 2015

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Page 8 of 47 ■ Hudson Valley Parent 9 I am a Hudson Valley Parent Megan Matsen: Crawl before you walk By BRIAN PJ CRONIN M ost parents don't like to take their work life home with them. For those par- ents who work with children howev- er, it's unavoidable. They get home and fi nd their work life crawling around on their living room fl oor. That was the case for Megan Matsen of Millbrook, a pediatric physical therapist who specializes in children with neuromotor disorders. "I've always been fascinated by in- fant development," she says. "When my children were born, I tried very hard not to overanalyze them and their development." She couldn't, of course, and was soon overanalyzing her fi rst child Molly once she began crawling. All that observing led Matsen to notice that while Molly was handling crawling on the carpet with ease, things took a turn for the worse whenever she crawled off the carpet and onto the hardwood fl oor. "She didn't have the stability and strength in the hips and shoulder joints to maintain the alignment nec- essary in order to advance forward," Matsen explains. "She was slipping and sliding all over the hardwood fl oor. So I thought to myself, what if we changed the surface area on her pants?" Curious, Matsen put little patches on the forearms, hips, knees, and shins of Molly's clothes in order to align with specifi c muscle groups. Sure enough, Molly was able to maintain better alignment, ad- vance forward with creeping on the hardwood fl oor and build up speed. When her second daughter Nora was born a year later, it gave Matsen a chance to further refi ne her work. "With Nora I started videotaping my sessions with her, and I could see the difference the grips made as com- pared to wearing a cotton onesie," she says. "I thought, 'This would be wonderful for not only children with typical development but children with special needs as well.'" Building strength That was the beginning of Pro- gressive Crawlers, the line of cloth- ing Matsen invented based on those prototypes. She offi cially launched the company last spring. The clothes can now be found in fi ve different stores in the Hudson Valley as well as online. Matsen is proud that she is able to keep production of the prod- uct as local as possible: with fabrics made in Connecticut and clothing assembled in Massachusetts. She's also been attending baby ex- pos and teaching parents about the importance of belly time for infants. "A lot of children aren't spending enough quality time on the fl oor to learn how to move. They need a lot of repetition practice," she says. "So I'm trying to educate families on the importance of belly time to build strength and stability in order to succeed at crawling and walking. It takes a lot of repetition to de- velop advanced skills like crawling and creeping. Research shows that within motor development, children need 5,000 repetitions of practice in order to master a single skill. You need all that fl oor play fi rst." Watching mom at work Progressive Crawlers may be tak- ing off, but it's still not Matsen's day job. She currently works as a phys- ical therapist at the Cardinal Hayes School for Special Children, a day school and residential center in Mill- brook for developmentally disabled children and young adults. "A lot of the kids have a neurological impair- ment, so we're working on getting the kids to recognize what it feels like to be properly aligned when performing a motor task. Just like in- fants learning to crawl, they need a lot of repetition. I'm very thankful to enjoy my work. I'm passionate about helping children, helping them grow, helping them experience different types of movement patterns, and learn new skills." This is not the fi rst time Matsen has worked with special needs chil- dren. Before the Hayes school, she worked at an integrated early educa- tion center that served special needs children with children typical de- velopment together. Matsen was so passionate about the center that she enrolled Molly in the class. "She got to see her Mom working throughout the day," says Matsen. "She always tells me that when she grows up she wants to help little kids like Mommy does. She knows I'm helping kids get stronger. It's really empowering for girls to see their mom out working, providing for their families, and seeing that she can do anything she puts her mind to." Matsen may not get to take her daughter to work with her every day anymore, but she still feels like in both her work life and her home life, she has the best of both worlds. Brian PJ Cronin is a freelance writer for "It's really empowering for girls to see their mom out working, providing for their families."

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