It didn’t help the new mom-to-be when she was told her baby would likely never walk, talk or feed herself. Frances, resolute in her refusal to give up on baby Claudia, followed the advice of a friend and looked into the infant therapy services offered at Akron Children’s Hospital.
“We needed lots of help,” said Frances. “All the things most parents take for granted we had to work very hard for. The therapists gave me lots of encouragement and ideas for what I could do to help Claudia improve.”
Some of those ideas included learning how to do therapeutic exercises at home to help Claudia progress faster, and buying toys that would reinforce therapy goals such as dolls that needed their shoelaces tied.
“Those first few years were so important to Claudia’s development,” she said. “I don’t think we owned a single toy that didn’t have a dual therapy purpose.”
Frances and her husband looked forward to Claudia’s weekly therapy sessions because during that same time they participated in a parent support group with other parents of children with cerebral palsy.
“It was so helpful to learn tips from other parents who were going through the same things we were. It helped to know we weren’t alone,” she said. “We would share the names of physicians we liked, where to buy therapeutic toys or adaptive equipment, and where to go for support services in the community.”
“She could pretty much do everything any other kid could do with a few exceptions – it just took her a little longer to get there.”
Now 36 years old and living independently, Claudia long ago proved her initial naysayers wrong. She ran track for North High School, swam on a Special Olympics swim team for 17 years, and has held down various jobs at Walmart, Goodwill and Hattie Larlham since graduating from high school in 1998.
“Even though she’s nonverbal, she has made a life for herself,” said Frances. “She has an iPad-like device that speaks what she types so she is able to communicate.”
Frances feels strongly that things could have been very different had she not found Akron Children’s when she did.
“Those first couple years were so important to Claudia’s development,” she said. “I don’t know where we’d be today if we didn’t have the infant therapy team to start us off on the right foot.”
As part of our year-long anniversary celebration, we’re telling the story of Akron Children’s through the eyes of past and present employees, doctors, donors, volunteers and patient families. We encourage you to share your own memories and stories about us.
About Kathy Johnson
Kathy Johnson is a freelance writer, editor and public relations consultant with nearly 25 years of experience in the healthcare industry.