The first thing you notice about Elio is how happy he is. He smiles not just with his mouth, but with his eyes. And in his eyes, you see curiosity. It’s an interest in the outside world that is not defined or limited by any formal diagnosis or disability. Instead, he is a little boy who has recently shifted from being just an observer of the world around him – to a “do-er”.
It was when Elio was about eight months old, that Lorraine first noticed he wasn’t developing in the same way as his older brothers – Luca is 7 and Amedeo is 5. “I looked at pictures of his brothers and realized that at the same age, they were sitting and starting to climb and Elio wasn’t there yet.” She explained that it was then they visited their family doctor, and were eventually referred to the Ottawa Children’s Treatment Centre.
Elio has been diagnosed with a global developmental delay. That means his speech, development and growth are progressing at a markedly slower rate than other children his age. Despite his age, Elio is not speaking and his muscle tone and motor skills are also significantly affected and less developed.
Just a few months ago, Elio was struggling to find his feet. At age 3, he was not yet walking and travelled in the arms of his parents or in a stroller. Elio was on the sidelines watching his older brothers as they played and moved about.
“At first, you are overwhelmed,” said Lorraine. “When we went for our assessment at the Ottawa Children’s Treatment Centre, I saw what Elio could not do.” That’s when Elio’s family and the clinical team at the OCTC sprang into action. Elio began to receive Physiotherapy and Occupational Therapy services from the Centre. Through OCTC, his family took a Hanen Language program and began Speech Therapy. The program is helping everyone around him to communicate with Elio, in a way that will encourage him to find his own voice in his own time.
As a key part of the therapy approach and philosophy, Elio’s family plays an active role is his treatment. His parents, Lorraine and Ivano, work daily with Elio to build on the skills that Elio is learning at the Centre. The team at OCTC has also provided his older brothers with games and play ideas that are both fun for them, and beneficial for Elio.
In the past few months, Elio has progressed in so many ways. The little boy who earlier this year was only toddling, is now confident and steady on his feet! He’s making his way up and down the stairs in his home, and earlier this year, he completed his first Terry Fox “Run” with his family.
And each morning, just like his brothers, Elio prepares for school. In September, he began attending the OCTC preschool program. Each morning, he grabs his backpack and heads for a full day of integrated play, socialization, skill building and learning.
“It’s great,” says Lorraine. “He knows we are there, claps his hands and is ready to head in. He recognizes his surroundings and is happy to be there.”
While at pre-school, Elio has a chance to play and learn with other children his age. He continues his therapy during the day, and is preparing for an eventual transition when he will attend his community school.
In recent weeks, his family and teachers have been especially excited to see the way Elio is taking the initiative to complete new tasks. He’s no longer waiting for an invitation to try new things; instead he’s finding new activities he’s interested in and giving them a try.
For his family, their experience with OCTC has been very positive. “I never feel like a bother. They never make me feel like I have a stupid question and they are so encouraging.”
The OCTC has given Elio and his family so much more than just therapy and treatment. They have shown them a new way to approach each day, and provided a sense of excitement about what the future holds for Elio.
The best part of my job at the Ottawa Children’s Treatment Centre Foundation is to know that the work we do and the support we provide allow children and youth have the experiences that we all want for our children. I am really inspired by the people I have met, especially when I hear what a difference our Physiotherapy and Occupational Therapy services are making in the life of children like Elio. Isn’t that amazing that a child who was not yet walking at age 3 completed his first Terry Fox “Run” with his family!