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Graciela's Client Story


Graciela Nieves

 Inspiration Comes In A Tiny Package

Easter Seals RI Outpatient Client
Graciela Nieves


At three years old, Graciela Nieves is already a true inspiration! In fact, it was her determined spirit and contagious smile that were the motivation behind the opening of the Easter Seals RI Pediatric Outpatient clinic. Born at just 23 weeks, a twin survivor and weighing only one pound, Graciela faced an incredible battle for survival. The first five months of her life were spent in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) before going home with oxygen support and two parents who had so many questions about where to turn next. However, within a few weeks of being discharged, Graciela’s parents, Lillian and Santos, were introduced to a therapy team at Easter Seals RI. Immediately, the team put together a plan designed specifically for Graciela and the Nieves began to feel a sense of relief, knowing they were not alone in their quest to provide Graciela with the best early intervention services available.

“When something like this happens to you, you are numb and you are looking for solutions and answers. The staff at Easter Seals RI was very straightforward and that was exactly what we needed,” Santos explains. “They took care of Graciela, first of all, of her needs, by providing physical, occupational and speech therapy. But they also took care of us as parents, by providing us with information and with hope.” Graciela’s mother agrees, “Instead of focusing on her disabilities, they focused on her ability to do something,” Lillian smiles as she talks about Graciela’s therapy team. “They are like part of our family.”

Over the last few years, Graciela’s therapy plan has been adapted to meet her changing needs and, much to the delight of the Nieves family, started to include aquatic therapy. If you happen to catch Graciela in the pool, giggling and splashing around, you will see she has come a long way from the NICU. Her proud parents were thrilled with the support the family has received through Easter Seals RI, but as Graciela approached her third birthday, the time when children in Rhode Island age out of early intervention services, it became clear to the Easter Seals RI staff and the Nieves that there were going to be some pieces to her therapy routine that would not be met as she entered school. That is where the idea for the Easter Seals RI Pediatric Outpatient Program blossomed.

“I made it my mission to create solutions and find a way to solve the problem the Nieves, and many Rhode Island families, were facing,” explains Pat O’Leary, Clinical Supervisor at Easter Seals RI.

And create solutions she did! In the fall of 2011, Easter Seals RI proudly opened the doors to the new Pediatric Outpatient Program, serving children – like Graciela - and young adults through age 21 in greater South County. The program currently provides physical, occupational and aquatic therapies, but with support from generous donors, Easter Seals RI hopes to soon add speech, language and social interaction groups.

Inspired by the determination of Graciela to survive, and thrive, against the odds, the Easter Seals RI was determined to make the dream of a pediatric outpatient program a reality for children with special needs and disabilities in Rhode Island!

For more information about the Outpatient program click here.

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