The Children's Institute Blog

Celebrating National OT Month: Gabriel's Story

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


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.


He continues to make the same dramatic progress he has since he was a baby. At 15 months, despite the odds and doctors’ predictions, Gabriel was sitting up, and, by 23 months, he was crawling around their Cambria County, Pa. home.

“We make such a big deal out of things – and Gabriel understands,” Lea said. “They may seem so little to lots of folks. But it’s a big deal!”

“Just last night, he learned how to ride a bike, a tricycle,” she said late last month. “He couldn’t do that until he got here. Riding a bike, in my mind, was just that golden ticket – and he did it!”

Leslie Paat, Gabriel’s occupational therapist at The Children’s Institute, says physical limitations have made it difficult for him to participate in typical childhood play activities, as well as everyday routines such as brushing his teeth and feeding himself.

“By modifying the environment and materials that we use in therapy sessions to make them conducive to his current abilities, and by identifying the ‘just right challenge’ and appropriate level of assistance, we’ve been able to help Gabriel make progress in each of those areas,” Leslie said. “He is now doing things that even his parents have never seen him do before – stacking blocks, beginning to use a spoon, and allowing his mother to brush his teeth, to name just a few.”

“That being said, among all the challenges he has, Gabriel has two very supportive and adoring parents who are committed to being a part of his therapy team, and that has made the therapeutic process truly rewarding,” she added.

Gabriel , who his parents hope will attend Pre-K at the Western Pennsylvania School for Blind Children in Pittsburgh, was making progress with early intervention and outpatient therapy at home. Cortical visual impairment, Gabriel’s diagnosis, runs on a scale of 0, meaning no vision, to 10, meaning typical vision. At the time of his initial diagnosis, Gabriel was a 2. Now, with treatment, he scored a 7.

Lea believed, however, that an intense burst of inpatient treatment would lead to huge gains. Turns out she was right.

“That’s what’s so beautiful here. They don’t look at the diagnosis. They just get you,” Lea said, with a glowing smile. “We are so blessed to be here.”


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