Leo was admitted to Blythedale when he was 18-months old after being born with giant omphalocele, a rare birth defect in which the internal organs develop in a sack outside the abdominal wall. Leo required complex medical care for his complicated condition and intensive physical, occupational, speech and feeding therapies in hopes that one day he would be able to go home. Leo's clinical team began integrating his therapies to further motivate him.
"What we did is definitely unique to Blythedale," says Marnina Allis, CCC-SLP, ATP, Leo's speech therapist. By integrating feeding with play, Leo began began learning how to feed himself. As the team watched him make progress with this integration, they realized it was working.
"We were all working for Leo," reflected Allis.
With the addition of assistive technology, Leo began making impressive gains. Prior to his admission to Blythedale, Leo was not medically stable enough to leave his crib. With therapy and conditioning, and assistive technology, Leo was able to access his environment independently for the first time. Susan Mitchell, OTR, Leo's occupational therapist, trialed a motorized wheelchair with Leo.
"I put his hand on the joystick and he knew right away that that's what made the wheelchair move," she said. "It was amazing to see him change from being so inwardly focused to becoming aware of his surroundings."
Both Leo's parents and Mitchell remarked that it was challenging to get Leo to come back inside when he was in the motorized wheelchair. "He knows," said Jennifer, his mom. "He knows what he wants and likes to trick us. Often Leo will act as if he's bringing the wheelchair back inside but at the last moment turn around and fool everyone."
"He's left an impression and I feel like they'll always remember him and that's what they tell us: Leo is one for the books," she said.