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Emma & Liam's Client Story

Liam, Abby, Liam McAllister_Client Story

Easter Seals RI
Early Intervention Client Story

Emma & Liam McAllister

Donna and Mike have three amazing children, Abby, 10, and twins Emma and Liam, 7.

When Emma was 14 months old, Donna noticed that she was continuously walking on her tippy toes. Emma’s pediatrician diagnosed her with a tight heel cord in her left leg, which made it impossible for her to walk on a flat foot. It was recommended that she receive physical therapy to help relax and stretch the muscles in her legs.

Donna immediately called Easter Seals RI to seek Early Intervention (EI) services for her daughter. The family was delighted by the professionalism of Easter Seals employees.

“Their promptness to fill out paperwork, and the ability to collaborate with a 14-month-old to complete an evaluation was amazing,” said Donna. “It gave us a good feeling about working with Easter Seals.”

After Easter Seals Physical Therapist Carol Cagle completed the evaluation, she recommended that Emma see an orthopedist. During her appointment the doctor suggested having Emma visit a neurologist to see if she’d be a candidate for Botox injections in her legs. At this time she had an MRI which ruled out the possibility that her tight heel cord was a symptom of a brain or spinal cord injury. Following her MRI, Emma received the Botox injections in both legs which helped by dampening the response of the nerve that controls the lower leg. 

“Carol went with us to the doctor appointments to help me understand the medical terminology, and for moral support,” said Donna. “The MRI was a difficult experience for the family.”

For the next six weeks, Emma had weekly appointments to undergo serial casting, which stretched her heel cord, and she was eventually fitted for a brace to wear until she was five years old. Emma continued seeing Carol weekly at home for Physical Therapy. Through her weekly play-based sessions, Carol would work with Emma, teaching her how to balance and helping to strengthen her muscles. When Emma turned three, she became too old for EI, but continued her therapies through Easter Seals Outpatient program.

Through this transition, Emma’s therapies reduced to twice a month. However, since she gained strength in her muscles through EI, Carol was able to increase the intensity of services Emma was receiving. Emma started walking forward and backward on a treadmill, and using the heel-to-toe walking method to really stretch out her muscles. Carol taught Emma the ‘penguin walk’ to help her stop turning her feet in when walking, as well as balance exercises which continued until she was five years old.

Throughout Emma’s time at Easter Seals, her brother Liam also began Early Intervention services with Speech Pathologist Cyndi Dewhurst. At 18-months-old the family noticed that he was not speaking. The evaluation found that Liam understood what was being said to him, but couldn’t communicate or express his feelings back. Through weekly speech therapy sessions, Cyndi helped Liam progress to a place where he could communicate with his family. One of his favorite therapy activities was blowing bubbles. During this session, Cyndi would blow bubbles and Liam would pop them. When popping the bubble he was encouraged to sound out the word “pop.” By the time Liam turned three he no longer needed to receive speech therapy.

“It was hard to stop services for both Emma and Liam because the staff becomes part of your family. They made sure to include our oldest daughter Abby in the twin’s therapy sessions so she felt like she was part of the process too,” said Donna. “Not only did they help us by providing services for our children, but they were advocates for our family.”

Today, Emma and Liam are in second grade. Emma loves to play soccer and Liam loves playing basketball and kickball.

Click here for more information about Early Intervention services.

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