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Achieving Milestones

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Every child deserves a good start in life, and Easter Seals offers an array of therapy services to newborns, toddlers and preschoolers with disabilities or developmental delays get started on the path to reaching their fullest potential.

For more than 65 years, Easter Seals Delaware & Maryland’s Eastern Shore has specialized in meeting the needs of children and their families through creative, playful activities that go beyond traditional physical therapy, occupational therapy and speech services. Whether it’s developmental delay, autism spectrum disorders, Down syndrome, cerebral palsy, language delay, or feeding and swallowing difficulties, Easter Seals’ team of skilled therapists can help provide solutions.

In 2015, Easter Seals provided therapy services to more than 1,500 children at four locations in Delaware and Maryland. While early intervention programs focus on children between birth and 3 years old, Easter Seals can continue to provide services to children until they reach their 18th birthday.

“Just seeing them meet milestones is rewarding to watch and be part of,” says physical therapist Sarah Oleksak. Equally rewarding, she says, is “watching parents as they realize they have the skills they need to help their child succeed.”

One of the children who has begun to achieve those milestones through the support of Easter Seals’ therapy services is Brinley Fey, who was diagnosed with Down syndrome.

Brinley was only 4 months old when she made her first visit to Easter Seals, where Oleksak and other therapists evaluated her condition and developed a treatment plan. Brinley now has physical therapy and speech-language therapy sessions every week and an occupational therapy session every other week.

“Easter Seals has just been a lifesaver for us,” says Angela Fey, Brinley’s mother.

One of the first concerns the therapists addressed was a condition called low tone, a muscle weakness that made it difficult for Brinley to control her posture and hold her head up. As Brinley’s abilities improved, the therapists began working on mobility issues. Using an overhead harness system called a LiteGait in conjunction with a treadmill, Oleksak is able to observe Brinley’s stepping patterns and develop exercises that will help her as she begins to walk.

Brinley isn’t walking on her own yet, her mother says, but she’s able to take a couple of steps while holding onto a chair or the edge of a coffee table. She uses a portable LiteGait model when the family goes to church or takes her to the park. “It gives her the feeling of being upright when she’s around other kids,” Angela Fey says.

Speech therapist Jaime Toner has been working with Brinley and her parents not only on developing language skills but also on feeding techniques. “She taught us how to hold the spoon differently, to make her work more for her food. This will help as her speech patterns develop,” Angela Fey says. As Brinley has begun to speak, Toner has shown her parents how to introduce new words into her vocabulary with a variety of techniques, including using flash cards and imitating animal sounds.

“Helping any child, at any level, to engage with their family and with their peers is very rewarding,” Oleksak says. “I come to work every day knowing the importance of helping these children, and their families, to succeed.”

Angela Fey recognizes the value of the services the Easter Seals team is providing her daughter, and hopes to continue with them for as long as they are beneficial.

“Brinley has learned so much,” she says. “I don’t even know how to say it—her progress has been amazing.”

Easter Seals provides therapy services to more than 
1,500 children a year, including Brinley Fey. 
(Photo by Maria DeForrest)

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