The Children's Institute Blog

Day School Students Grow as They Help Community Garden Flourish

Posted by The Children's Institute - Apr 26, 2017


Something is blooming thanks to The Children’s Institute.

Since the beginning of this school year, a group of 10 young adults from The Children’s Institute’s Day School has been tending to a garden off-campus in Penn Hills as part of their adult prep work. Led by Occupational Therapy Assistant Tracey Weber, the students water seeds, till soil for plants, lug mulch, and do other heavy work at the community garden.

For one student with balance issues, the visits help teach how to walk on a variety of surfaces. For others, such as students with autism, the trips provide an opportunity for sensory input that helps them regulate emotions and learn new motor skills, Tracey said.

“But the main reason we go is that it’s meaningful,” Tracey said. “We’re able to be purposeful and give back to the community.”
 Read More...



Emerging Leaders in Behavioral Health at The Children's Institute

Posted by The Children's Institute - Apr 25, 2017

Two professionals from The Children’s Institute have been promoted to new positions in our behavioral health unit.

Dr. Tina Boni was promoted to the post of Clinical Program Manager of behavioral health’s inpatient units, while Sarah Fallica was promoted to Manager of Behavioral Health Referral and Liaison Services. Read More...



Celebrate Autistic Community Event at The Children's Institute

Posted by The Children's Institute - Apr 25, 2017

The Celebrate Autistic Community event, slated for April 29 at The Children’s Institute, is anything but your typical event about autism. Just ask Cori Frazer, who heads Pittsburgh Center for Autistic Advocacy, which is sponsoring the casual, drop-in event from 1 to 4 pm. Admission is free.

“Our goal is really to celebrate our community and educate people about autistic culture. Autism is often thought of in medicalized terms, but while the importance of support and healthcare for our community cannot be understated, we also want to highlight the cultural aspects of autism,” Cori said. “This event is different because it has had autistic people lead the planning process from the beginning. While we have had wonderful support from our allies in the community, every part of this event has been planned by autistic people with the goal of creating space for autistic community in Pittsburgh.” Read More...



Celebrating National OT Month: Luke's Story

Posted by The Children's Institute - Apr 24, 2017

Luke Laskowski already was doing early intervention and seeing an occupational therapist when doctors diagnosed him with autism three weeks before his third birthday in 2015.

“He was doing some ear-covering and was delayed in his milestones – He didn’t walk on his own ‘til 15 months and he didn’t have a lot of words,” said Bethany, mother of Luke and his older sister, Sophia, 7.

“I always say there’s a reason God gave me Luke and God gave me Sophia,” she said. “Sophia is so understanding that Luke is a little bit different child.”

Shortly after the diagnosis, Luke saw occupational therapist Carolyn Dzialakiewicz and, later, certified occupational therapy assistant Chad Bender, known affectionately to the preschooler as “Mr. Chad.”

“He still thinks Mr. Chad is just his friend and, given that relationship, he’s pushed Luke and gotten results out of Luke that have shocked us,” Bethany said. “Mr. Chad is relentless in trying to reach this kid and I am so grateful for that – I can’t even begin to tell you.” Read More...



Celebrating National OT Month: Andrew's Story

Posted by The Children's Institute - Apr 20, 2017


When Andrew McElhaney was a baby, his mother, Allison, could tell he was little different.

“He was walking at nine months old but everything else was delayed,” she told me. “At two, he wasn’t speaking a lot, not calling me Mommy. Those red flags got me thinking, ‘We’ve got to get him checked out.’”

When Andrew was diagnosed with mild to moderate autism at age three, Allison knew that the first few years would be the most important, as well as the most formative.

“My biggest fear when they told me he had autism is that he wouldn’t be able to function,” she said. “I took that and ran with it to make sure he had everything he needed. We started a lot of speech therapy and occupational therapy. Now, here he is, and I’m just really grateful to everyone who’s pointed us in the right direction.”

“He’s talking now, saying, ‘Mommy, can I have a drink?’” she added. “It’s wonderful!” Read More...



Pittsburgh Penguins Visit Our Amazing Kids

Posted by The Children's Institute - Apr 17, 2017


Cameron Kennedy was in his 16th day of inpatient treatment at The Children’s Institute last week when former Pittsburgh Penguin Tyler Kennedy – no relation! – and team mascot Iceburgh came to Squirrel Hill.

Tyler, the former number 48 who won the Stanley Cup with the Pens in 2009, handed out hats, posed for tons of photos and shared a few from his cell phone, and signed a slew of autographs. But the loopy Iceburgh stole the show for some of our amazing kids.

“Iceburgh played pool – it was so much fun, it was hilarious,” Cameron laughed.

Brent Zierer also thrilled at the chance to rub elbows with members of the Pens’ organization.

“I’ve been to a Penguins game and I went to a Mario Lemieux charity event,” said Brent, pausing after crafting a pennant emblazoned with the phrase “It’s a great day for hockey in Pittsburgh.” “This is pretty fun and exciting, though. It makes staying in the hospital fun, and it makes it interesting with everything else going on around you.”

The Pens appeared last week to promote the team’s playoff match-up against Columbus. But, no matter the occasion, the visit positively lit up Austin’s Playroom – a room named in The Children’s Institute for Mario Lemieux’s son.

“The smiles on their faces are priceless,” said Sarah L. Miedel, manager of the Therapeutic Activities Department. “It’s something they don’t get to experience every day.” Read More...



Celebrating National OT Month: Gabriel's Story

Posted by The Children's Institute - Apr 14, 2017

When Gabriel was born prematurely in June 2014 with bleeding in his brain that caused cerebral palsy and global developmental delays, doctors said he might never sit up on his own.

On March 20, after a month of intensive inpatient treatment at The Children’s Institute, he rode a bike.

“He’s doing things the doctors said he’d never do,” said Lea, his mother, who’s been dorming with Gabriel during his inpatient stay. “I think the one thing that Gabriel has taught us is to not lose hope. It’s so easy to look at him as a diagnosis and not let him be a kid. But allowing him to just play and learn through playing – and that’s what they do here – you can see him blossoming.”

When Gabriel arrived at The Children’s Institute on Feb. 27, his parents were hoping to see improvements in their son’s ability to feed himself, help more with getting dressed and providing some new fine-motor skills to his play. His receptive language – the ability to understand information shared with him – is excellent, but the three-year-old, who loves classical music, movement and playing with balls, is nonverbal and suffers visual impairment from the bleeding in his brain. Read More...



Occupational Therapists Donate to Crisis Center North

Posted by The Children's Institute - Apr 11, 2017

Occupational therapists at The Children’s Institute this month are donating at least 100 items to a Pittsburgh-area domestic violence organization to make a difference during the 100th anniversary of the formal founding of their profession.

The items will go to Crisis Center North, a domestic violence counseling and resource advocacy group based in northern Allegheny County. While Crisis Center North serves about 2,000 people each year, the goods are funneled directly to a pool of 250 to 300 people the organization provides counseling and case management. Read More...



Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra Chamber Group Visits Our Amazing Kids

Posted by The Children's Institute - Apr 07, 2017


A Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra chamber group was in the midst of performing David Anderson’s “Quintet” for a gymnasium full of students from The Children’s Institute’s Day School when something odd happened. As children clapped rhythmically, a woman from the Information Desk turned on the loud speaker and blurted, quite loudly, that teachers needed support in one of their classrooms.
The quintet didn’t blink.

The quintet, led by bassist John Moore, has played concert halls, high schools and bars, and they say they don’t alter their performance for the crowd or the venue.

“Whether we’re in a small ensemble, whether we’re in Heinz Hall – we do what we do,” John said after Tuesday’s 45-minute performance. “The quality and the music is appropriate in all of those settings.”

Performers includes John Moore on bass, Scott Bell on oboe, Dennis O’Boyle on violin, Andrew Wickesberg on viola, and Ron Samuels on clarinet.

In addition to recreating the modern piece by Anderson – a living composer whose work, John said, references popular culture, as well as orchestral repertoire – each musician performed a solo after a brief introduction to their instrument. The students seemed to love it, clapping and sometimes swaying with the sound. Read More...



Celebrating National OT Month: Ryan's Story

Posted by The Children's Institute - Apr 06, 2017

Ryan Morrow’s been doing his homework.

The Connellsville, Pa.-area seventh-grader has made tremendous progress since coming to The Children’s Institute three years ago, after surgeons removed a brain tumor when medication failed to control seizures he was experiencing.

“When he started out, he could hardly do anything and his right arm had to be tied to the walker,” said Nancy, his grandmother, as she watched Ryan exercise both arms last month on a cycling machine. “Now, he plays ball in the Pony League. He’s come so far.”

“He’s our hardest worker,” said Kristin Bowman, who has worked with Ryan for two of her 12 years as an Occupational Therapist, six of them at The Children’s Institute. “He does whatever you ask him to. You could ask him to stand on his head; he’d say ‘OK.’ I’ve never heard him say ‘No.’”

“That’s why he really is our star pupil – he always gives 110 percent.”

Ryan is just one of the patients we’re profiling this month as we celebrate National Occupational Therapy Month and the centennial anniversary of the profession’s formal founding. Read More...



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