Artist Transforms Protective Infant Helmets Into Works of Art for Children, Parents

Oct. 26, 2017

Washington painter gives us a whole new perspective to "flat-head syndrome."

image, courtesy of Landee Tim

Cranial plagiocephaly, also known as "flat-head syndrome" in infants, is a treatable, but scary diagnosis for many parents. But one Pacific Northwest artist is helping to turn their troubles into triumphs with her custom-designed helmets for babies.

Paula Strawn, owner of Lazardo Art, has painted over 2,800 helmets, called DOC Bands -- the first-ever FDA-approved cranial orthotic for the treatment of plagiocephaly -- for parents around the country. Parents like Landee Tim, mother of 18-month-old Henry, who was diagnosed with cranial plagiocephaly when he was two months old.

“I was scared and felt really guilty,” Tim, a middle school English teacher, told Care.com about the moment in which she first learned of her son’s condition. “I felt like it was my fault. Was I not holding him enough? All of these things ran through my mind.”

She knew it was going to be an uphill battle, but Tim wasn’t quite prepared for the public backlash she and her family would receive when Henry wore his helmet out and about.

“People would make comments, they would stare -- it was hard enough that my son had to wear the helmet,” the Modesto, CA, mom said. “The initial experience was hard enough on us, and on top of that people are looking at us like we did something to our son -- that broke my heart.”

That’s when Tim decided to make the best of a disheartening situation and found Strawn’s company through an internet search.

“The moment I contacted Paula [Strawn], I knew we were in good hands," Tim told Care.com. "She was very understanding of our situation, and after being judged by others, it was refreshing."

Strawn, who has been in the helmet-decorating business since 2003, said that bringing joy to parents and children is what makes the long hours worth it. Strawn estimates that she spends anywhere from six to 15 hours painting one helmet.

“I get to help others with art and that makes everything I do for these families worth it,” said Strawn, who has four children and six grandchildren of her own. “I get to help parents and babies -- I am truly blessed.”

It’s that dedication and creative genius that turned what used to be a negative situation for Tim and her family into a positive one.

“Once Henry’s helmet was painted, the reaction from others became very positive -- he got lots of smiles,” Tim told Care.com. Here son wore the helmet for 9 months.

Strawn designed a pilot-themed helmet, inspired by one of Tim’s favorite books, "Where The Wild Things Are."

Through her art, Strawn has helped thousands of families whose children have been diagnosed with cranial plagiocephaly. She aims to paint and ship the helmet back to the parents on the same day, depending on the intricacy of the design. And, if she can't turn it around same-day, she sends them off the very next morning so that the child doesn't have to be without the helmet for long.

According to Seattle Children’s Hospital, infants typically spend 4 to 5 months wearing the helmets for 23 hours a day, so Strawn knows the importance of getting the designs just right.

Strawn told Care.com that her top-selling design is the ‘aviator’ helmet, and that she lends her creative talents to help each family develop the perfect design to fit their child’s personality. On average, Strawn’s helmet designs costs anywhere from $200 to $350.

“Every design is a little different and at the end of the day, I want the helmet to reflect the family’s hopes and desires, and to bring a smile to their face,” Strawn told Care.com. “I really do have the best job ever.”

Tips and stories from parents and caregivers who’ve been there.

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