With fall in the air and turkey dinner on the mind someone recently asked me what we were thankful for and it reminded me of a post I had seen on social media from Merritt & Associates GC Inc. of a story by Sharon Sullivan.
Their post says, “Read this story about the Bonnie family and you’ll understand why we love Strive”…
“STRiVE therapists offer compassion, reassurance and hands-on help for families”
By Sharon Sullivan
Stephanie and Doug Bonnie are the parents of three children, 10-year old Masen, Braelyn, who is 5, and Elijah, 15 months. Their two youngest children experienced a rocky start to life due to complications in childbirth. Thanks to STRiVE’s Early Intervention program, however, the children have made huge gains in their development, and the parents were supported during an emotional and stressful time.
Fifteen-month old Elijah Bonnie inhaled meconium while in utero, which led to pneumonia, and a month stay in the neonatal intensive care unit at Children’s Hospital in Denver. Elijah was diagnosed with Down’s syndrome and a heart defect while still in utero.
Through STRiVE’s Early Intervention program, Elijah began receiving occupational therapy when he was 2 months old. A therapist came every two weeks to provide range of motion exercises for the infant, to help him develop stronger body tone.
Elijah also had heart surgery at 3 months, followed by eight weeks of recovery after which occupational therapy resumed. STRiVE occupational therapist Cindy Carroll comes weekly to the home to help Elijah develop his fine motor skills by teaching him to squat, stand, eat and play with toys.
“He likes her; he’s not shy with her,” Stephanie said. “His attention span has got a lot better. He wouldn’t tolerate standing before; the same with kneeling and squatting. He gets in and out of sitting by himself now. He crawls all over (“Army style” by pulling forward with his arms).
“She works the muscles that he wouldn’t use. And she gives me tools,” so Stephanie can continue to work with her son at home.
Four years earlier, the Bonnies were dealing with different, but equally challenging medical issues when their daughter was born three-and-a-half months premature.
Braelyn spent 12 weeks, and four days at St. Mary’s Hospital. A STRiVE occupational therapist visited Braelyn in the NICU, where she started occupational therapy immediately. At home, Braelyn began receiving STRiVE’s Early Intervention services.
“A speech therapist came out at 3 months, to help with feeding,” Stephanie said.
The therapist helped Braelyn position her tongue and mouth so that she was able to latch on for breastfeeding. Later, when Stephanie introduced solids, the OT helped with that, also.
“There was lot of facial massaging, and gum and tongue stimulation,” Stephanie said.
At age 2, Braelyn wasn’t talking, so she began working with a speech therapist again, and later, a Developmental Interventionist. Braelyn was diagnosed with Childhood Apraxia of Speech.
“She didn’t imitate at all,” Stephanie said. “Both therapists gave me tons of tools to use, plus books, and tons of references.
“We did lots of drawing, texture stuff using play dough, sand, bubbles, to get her to make sounds and get her to mimic. Braelyn learned sign language, her main form of communication at the time.
“By the time she graduated from Strive services at 3 years old, she could speak about 50 words,” Stephanie said. “When she started she didn’t talk.”
“Each of the therapists were super-compassionate. They give so many ideas.”
When Elijah was born, and with heart surgery on the horizon, STRiVE even helped the family tap into resources that would help them with mounting medical expenses, plus the cost of frequent trips and stays in Denver.
STRiVE additionally connected the Bonnies with other families in similar situations.
“The therapists became family,” Stephanie said. “We are so grateful for them.” Braelyn continues to meet with a speech therapist at St. Mary’s Life Center, but is now at age level in her development and ready to enter kindergarten next year with no delays.
When Braelyn was first diagnosed with apraxia, therapists predicted she wouldn’t be able to communicate effectively until age 7 or 8.
“So to be able to communicate effectively at age 4, I attribute that to STRiVE,” Stephanie said. “Now she talks all the time. She talks in her sleep!
“We wanted STRiVE back when we found out about Elijah, (and his health issues), she said.
“I had never heard of any of these programs,” Stephanie said. “The staff was uplifting and reassuring. They come in with so much positivity. They gave me a sense of ease.”
It was a huge help to Stephanie that STRiVE therapists came to the home. “It was one of the things I love about the services,” she said. “I also love that they are very flexible and understanding with schedules. Braelyn wouldn’t be where she is if we didn’t have STRiVE.”
The two cute little blondies adore each other. Elijah mimics his big sister and plays with her stuffed animals.
“She’s been in therapy since she was born, so she does STRiVE therapy with him,” Stephanie said.
What are we thankful for? We are thankful for all the good folks that make STRiVE what it is.