Pediatric Rehabilitation Helps Children Reach Milestones

Pediatric Rehabilitation Helps Children Reach Milestones

By Liane Edixon

Two-year-old Avery Fortier couldn’t sit up on her own, or tell her mom what she wanted, but now she walks, runs, and can communicate with words. Avery, who was diagnosed with 22q11.2 deletion syndrome, sometimes referred to as DiGeorge syndrome, couldn’t have gotten this far so fast without the help of her team of therapists at the NCH Pediatric Outpatient Rehabilitation Center.

Oftentimes a diagnosis of developmental delay and or speech delay accompanies this syndrome. Unlike most toddlers, Avery’s developmental delays make achieving milestones in speech, language and motor skills more difficult. Motor skills such as crawling and walking are activities that parents may take for granted, but require extra effort for Avery. Luckily, Avery has a dedicated team to help.

Avery started going to NCH Pediatric Outpatient Rehabilitation when she was 7 months old. She spends several days a week at the clinic for occupational, physical, and speech therapy and continues to meet goal after goal. “Since she’s been coming here, she’s reached so many goals we never imagined we would see,” says her other Sherrie Fortier. “She walks and runs now.”

Being mobile is just the start. When Avery started therapy, she communicated nonverbally, but in working with her speech therapist, she can now use words to express her wants and needs. Avery has gone from nonverbal to communicating socially using basic words like hi, hello, bye-bye, and can now tell her parents “love you”. Helping a child express feelings and needs alleviates frustrations for both parent and child and opens the door to better communication and interaction. “I’m excited to see where Avery’s going to go. I think she’s making great progress and will continue to do so,” says her NCH speech and language pathologist Rachel Micke.

Her occupational therapist at NCH, Charry Taylor agrees. “Avery has really caught up in her developmental milestones. She’s definitely improved,” Taylor says.

The therapists at NCH are experienced and specialize in treating pediatric patients with special needs and provide families with necessary educational tools and resources. The therapists offer multi-disciplinary services in physical, occupational, and speech therapy for pediatric patients and treat a range of diagnoses including developmental and language delays, Muscular Dystrophy, Cerebral Palsy, Down Syndrome, Autism, and general orthopedics to name a few.

The therapists take a team approach. “I work with Avery on her speech goals, but I am also aware of her physical and occupational therapy goals. Sharing clinical knowledge and working together are key components to our patient’s progress,” says Micke. Not only do the therapists work together, the team approach extends to physicians, case managers, family members and caregivers, all addressing goals as a team. “We believe in treating the patient as a whole,” Taylor says.
“I think it’s the little victories – the day they said their first word, communicated by using sentences for the first time. I like those victories the best,” Micke says. For Avery, who couldn’t hold her bottle and now drinks from an open cup, and who couldn’t feed herself with her fingers and now uses a fork, these are small victories in a long race to prepare her to be self-sufficient one day. Small victories, but ones that keep smiles on the faces of all those connected to that patient.