"She is a gift from God and she is perfect just the way He made her," is how Ana and Jesus Cisneros-Luna feel about their little girl, Elizabeth.
Like many couples, Ana and Jesus dreamed of becoming parents, but experienced one heartbreaking miscarriage after another. Five months into their pregnancy with Elizabeth, they were given some all too familiar news: there were difficulties with the pregnancy. The Cisneros learned their baby was not developing typically, there were complications with her heart and she would be born with Down Syndrome.
On January 19, 2012 at 31-weeks, Ana and Jesus welcomed Elizabeth into the world. They shared, “When Elizabeth was born we didn’t see her as different, she was just our little girl and we will always see her that way.” By the age of three, Elizabeth was only saying a few words and unable to walk. Her only way to get around was to scoot or to use her hands to support herself.
Sandy Crawford, Vice President of Pediatrics, explains, “Children with Down Syndrome tend to have low muscle tone, which can delay their development and typically begin to walk closer to two-years of age. However, children who have problems with their heart and other medical conditions can also experience further delays in their development of motor skills.”
In September of 2015, Elizabeth's journey began with Easterseals Capper Foundation for Physical Therapy and later Occupational Therapy for fine motor and self-help skills and Speech Therapy for communication. Cris Teter, Physical Therapist, shared, "When I first met Elizabeth, she sat on the floor, did not want to move and was fussy. It didn't take her long to warm up."
Elizabeth has made significant progress in Physical Therapy. Jesus and Ana shared, "Before we started coming to Capper, Elizabeth couldn't even stand up. She could only crawl on the couch. It was very hard to watch her struggle, when we could see she wanted to do more. We were told she would one day walk, but it was almost unimaginable, until we came here." She has progressed to creeping, cruising and walking independently with a reverse walker, using only one hand held and transitions from the floor to standing at a supporting surface independently. She can even play ring around the rosy and is beginning to pedal a tricycle.
Physical Therapy helps provide Elizabeth with the tools needed to become independent with her mobility and be able to participate in everyday activities with her family and friends. Cris provides the Cisneros standing activities to work with Elizabeth on at home and he encourages them to walk with her so she will build muscle to help her progress.
In March of 2016, Elizabeth began working with Julie Watson, Speech Language Therapist. Julie works to increase Elizabeth's vocabulary knowledge to identify and express different objects and actions to help her better communicate thoughts, wants and needs. They also work on understanding and following directional concepts, as well as understanding and expressing herself during social interactions or greeting others.
Ana shared, "Elizabeth now says ‘mamma’. She never once said that until she started working with Julie! It means so much to me. I think I cried the first few times she said it.”
To help Elizabeth continue to meet these milestones, Julie encourages Elizabeth’s parents to practice modeling language frequently throughout her day. This supports further development of receptive and expressive communication development. She shared, “Modeling language throughout her day is important for her to be better able to understand information about the world around her, and develop expressive communication skills in multiple settings.” Julie added, “Working with Elizabeth is a treat! Her smile and happy demeanor are contagious. I enjoy it when she surprises me with a phrase she initiates on her own.”
Ana and Jesus are hopeful that Elizabeth will one day be able to walk independently and to continue to learn ways to better communicate her needs. Ana explained, "We have seen amazing progress with Elizabeth since starting services at Easterseals Capper Foundation. When she’s at home or at her school, she is always trying to get me or her teachers to play, “What’s in the Bucket?” This is her favorite activity in speech therapy. They make therapy fun, like play and she doesn't realize she is working."
Elizabeth continues to make incredible improvements and will continue to receive the therapy she needs because of your wonderful support of Easterseals Capper Foundation. We believe every person should have access and opportunities to achieve their full potential. Because of friends like you, we are able to provide pediatric therapy services to make profound, positive differences in children's lives every day.
You are helping us change the way the world defines and views disability. Please consider a generous contribution to help more children like Elizabeth build their abilities and be all they can be. Your continuing support makes a positive difference and you will feel good about giving. Thanks so much for caring and sharing!
President & CEO