Healthy Kids    

I am a Hudson Valley Parent - Megan Matsen

Crawl before you walk

Megan Matsen of Millbrook with her daughters

"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," says Megan Matsen shown here with daughters Nora and Molly (standing.)

Most parents don’t like to take their work life home with them. For those parents who work with children however, it’s unavoidable. They get home and find their work life crawling around in front of them on their living room floor.

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 infant 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 over analyzing her first 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 of the carpet and onto the hardwood floor.

“She didn’t have the stability and strength in the hips and shoulder joints to maintain the alignment necessary in order to advance forward,” Matsen explains. “She was slipping and sliding all over the hardwood floor. 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 specific muscle groups. Sure enough, Molly was able to maintain better alignment, advance forward with creeping on the hardwood floor and build up speed. When her second daughter Nora was born a year later, it gave Matsen a chance to further refine her work. “With Nora I started videotaping my sessions with her, and I could see the difference the grips made as compared 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 Progressive Crawlers, the line of clothing Matsen invented based on those prototypes. She officially launched the company last spring. The clothes can now be found in five different stores in the Hudson Valley as well as online. Matsen is proud that she is able to keep production of the product as local as possible: The fabrics are made in Connecticut and the clothes are assembled in Massachusetts. “I’ve been able to keep everything in the northeast, which is great,” she says.

She’s also been attending baby expos and teaching parents about the importance of belly time for infants. “A lot of children aren’t spending enough quality time on the floor 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 develop 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 floor play first.”

Watching mom at work

Progressive Crawlers may be taking off, but it’s still not Matsen’s day job. She currently works as a physical therapist at the Cardinal Hayes School for Special Children, a day school and residential center in Millbrook for developmentally disabled children and young adults. “A lot of the kids have a neurological impairment, 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 infants 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.”

It’s not the first time Matsen has worked with children with special needs. Before the Hayes school, she worked at an integrated early education center that served special needs children and children with typical development 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 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. “Working a school schedule is very accommodating because I’m working full time but also have time for my family,” she says. “Even with Progressive Crawlers, even as I’m slowly building that up, I’m not letting that interfere with my home life.”

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