“The wonderful staff at CTC helped us see the miracle in each and every step that Abby has taken. They’ve helped us to celebrate the fact that each of those tiny, individual miracles make it possible for the next miracle to happen. And the next one, and the next one, and the next one.”BETH, MOM OF ABBY
Abby Mclean is a 9 year old force to be reckoned with. She boxes with her older brother, Owen. She swims and practices tae kwon do, where she was recently awarded a “pink belt” created especially for her. And in her group workout sessions at CTC’s fitness center, she tackles the elliptical machine and the treadmill like an old pro.
As her mother, Beth, watches her daughter work out, she smiles. “It is pretty amazing to see her doing all this stuff,” she says. “As the parent of a child with developmental delays, it is sometimes difficult to see the progress your child is making. It’s easy to become focused on waiting for a miracle – that recurring dream that she’ll wake up one morning speaking full sentences and doing backflips! But the wonderful staff at CTC has helped us see the miracle in each and every step that Abby has taken. They’ve helped us celebrate the fact that each of those tiny, individual miracles make it possible for the next miracle to happen. And the next one, and the next one, and the next one.”
At the age of 8 weeks, Abby was in need of a few miracles. She was diagnosed with Prader-Willi syndrome, a genetic abnormality that resulted in multiple developmental delays in speech and motor skills, moderate hypotonia (low muscle tone) and difficulty feeding as an infant. Abby was referred to Children’s Therapy Center right out of the NICU.
“We started with feeding therapy,” Beth recalls, “which helped her progress from being fed through a tube to eating independently.” From there, Abby began working with speech therapists. She went from being completely silent, to using sign language, to making understandable speech.
Abby received occupational and physical therapy as well. “With a typical child, you take for granted that they will learn to turn their head, roll over, sit up, crawl, and walk. For children like Abby, all that had to be intentionally taught,” Beth says. It was important that Abby learn to become active, too. “Not only do Prader-Willi children deal with low muscle tone, but their metabolism is super slow and they always feel hungry. Weight gain is a real concern for them.”
Even as she got older, Abby continued to love the days when she got to play with one of her “friends” at CTC. “When children are little, it’s easier to get them involved in therapy but as they get older, it becomes more challenging to impart that desire to work and learn. The variety of techniques and toys the staff has at the center makes it possible to motivate any kid to work on and achieve their developmental goals.” Games using painting, swinging, water, and even flashcards were exciting for Abby. “The children just see their therapy as playtime. Meanwhile, the results are amazing!”
Back in the fitness center, Abby has moved on from her warm-ups on the elliptical and treadmill and is ready to demonstrate a jump rope routine to her group. She has been working hard and long to develop this skill, both at CTC and in school. Boys and girls all approximately Abby’s age sit in a semicircle around her, watching attentively as she grabs the jump rope handles and flips the rope above her head. After a few false starts – and a few frustrated grimaces – she hits her stride.
“I’m gonna do 20,” she announces, and the group counts down together for her, erupting in a cheer when she hits her goal. But Abby keeps going. “Four more!” she says. “Four more!”
In the photo above: Abby with her therapist, Lindsay. Abby began to defy expectations the moment her parents watched her pull herself up upright and start walking the week after she turned 2. “Prader-Willi kids don’t crawl because they have such weak arm strength,” says her mom. “We were told that she might not walk until she was 3 or 4. But one thing I have learned about her – when she decides to do something, she does it. She is a redhead, after all!”