Leo Bishop may not be able to communicate with words, but his parents have no difficulty understanding their son, who turns 3 in August.
“He can tell us things just by the way he cries, the way he squeals, the way he laughs, the way he smiles,” says his mother, Jeanine Bishop.
That’s how they know Leo enjoys a new type of wellness program he started this past February. Once a week, the family visits Raintree to use that facility’s small spa tub. Ben Bishop climbs into the pool, and Jeanine hands Leo to his father.
Born at 31 weeks, Leo weighed just one pound 10 ounces and was just over 13 inches. Labor was induced after a 3-D ultrasound showed he was not as large as he should be.
“That was on a Tuesday; they said more than likely he wouldn’t have made it until the weekend,” Jeanine says. “We know he has a little bit of cerebral palsy, and he does have seizures.”
Leo also has micro-corneas or smaller-than-normal corneas as well as smaller optic nerves and thus may have visual impairment.
Leo spent 114 days in the neo-natal intensive care unit at Akron Children’s Hospital before coming back home to Lexington and starting early intervention/Help Me Grow services with Richland Newhope.
Since then, he has received both physical and occupational therapy. But Ben and Jeanine wanted to do more to help the emotional wellness of their son.
“I think we mentioned something about how he loves baths,” notes Ben. “We talked about what makes him happy, what gets him excited – warm water!”
His parents think that weekly 20 minutes of pool time is bringing about some changes.
“The biggest thing we’ve noticed is that he’s much more loose,” says Jeanine. “He does have some tone issues, so he stays a little tight in his legs and, when he’s in the water, it’s a completely different story.”
“I think he’s been more vocal,” adds Ben. “Some of his motor skills, movements of his arms, are more controlled.”
Jeanine says a flotation device around Leo’s neck helps him make decisions for himself when he’s in the water.
“He’ll use his arms to turn left or to turn right,” she points out. “He didn’t do that at first. He does it a little bit now and then he does have the option to kick with his legs.”
Leo also sometimes uses a special raft that puts him partially in the water and helps with balance.
“He typically doesn’t have to do a lot of balancing at home,” Jeanine adds. “We do a lot of the work for him and then, when he comes in here (Raintree), it is more work for him.”
Leo is one of only a few non-Raintree residents to ever use the spa tub. Since he started this past winter, another child with similar needs has used it, too. The water temperature is kept at a warm 100 degrees.
Leo’s parents say it’s not just the warm temperature of the pool that they like.
“We don’t have the distractions of kids splashing around,” says his mom. “It’s a quiet setting. It’s just us – and just Leo doing his thing!”
The spa time is now part of the family’s normal routine.
“We want to give him every opportunity in the world that we can to allow him to do whatever he wants to do,” says Ben. “We’re going to work tirelessly to give him those opportunities with the end goal that he’s happy.”« Back to Stories