A Micro Preemie All Grown Up

Matt Cantwell shares how early intervention has benefited him throughout life

Matt Cantwell as an adult

Matthew Cantwell was new to his job in the Finance Department at Easterseals’ headquarters when he got to travel back in time.

More than 30 years after receiving therapy at an Easterseals center outside Chicago, he had the opportunity to revisit the center—as well as memories from long ago.

“It was a very meaningful experience,” he says.

Matt’s life first intersected with Easterseals when he was 2 years old. Born more than three months premature and weighing just 1 lb., 12 oz. (a micro preemie!), Matt had been diagnosed with mild cerebral palsy, which was affecting his motor development—including his ability to walk and communicate.

Matt Cantwell as a toddler

Four days a week, Matt received physical, occupational and speech therapy at Easterseals; his mother, Lynn, saw a difference within months of him beginning his early intervention therapies.

“His balance and gait were much improved. He could hold onto things better. He also began speaking more clearly and in full sentences,” she recalls.

Matt’s early progress was pivotal to preparing him for a brighter future. He was eventually able to start kindergarten on time, attend his local elementary school, graduate from high school, and earn bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Michigan State University. Today he is married and making a difference for others through the organization that once helped him. He has come full circle.

In fact, when he went back to the center where he once spent so many hours, Matt saw a familiar face: Jim Aliviti, who had been his physical therapist long ago. Aliviti remembered Matt, who was able to thank his former therapist for helping him make important strides when he was a young boy.

Matt Cantwell as Little Boy with a Basketball

“I feel very blessed,” Matt says. “I'm very lucky to have been provided the services and had the family I do. Easterseals is an incredible organization. I’m so grateful and proud to still be a part of it.”

If you're curious if your child might need speech therapy or physical therapy, talk to your doctor and also take the free Ages and Stages® developmental milestone screening.

To support Easterseals and help us continue our work to support millions of children develop to their greatest potential, donate now.

More stories of early intervention and its effect from birth to adulthood.

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