The Children's Institute Blog

Vivek's Story - Better Speach and Hearing Month

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

Vivek Sripathy isn’t going to let autism or being nonverbal get in the way of conversation. Within minutes of entering his classroom at The Children’s Institute’s Day School, he had told me his name, his home address and his birthday, and informed me he wanted to play with some drums.

“He isn’t limited to conversing in one or two word phrases. Vivek is able to construct meaningful sentences to interact with his teachers using his communication device,” speech-language pathologist Tracy Fox said, gesturing toward Vivek’s PRC Accent, an AAC device. “Vivek is very fluent in using his Accent and quickly expresses himself, starts conversations or answers simple questions. He is amazing, truly amazing!”

“He uses his device all day – he’s fantastic with it,” said his teacher, Kelly Lehosky. “He picks up on everything and gets involved in conversations. One day, the teachers were talking and he started asking what we had the night before for dinner.”  Read More...



Eddie's Story - Better Speech & Hearing Month

Posted by The Children's Institute - May 23, 2017

An Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) device, an electronic machine that reads aloud letters, words and phrases when prompted by a user, is helping Eddie Coltabaugh say words his parents thought they’d never hear from him.

During a recent therapy session, Eddie – who is four-years-old, has the rare DiGeorge Syndrome and is nonverbal – clicked through rows of buttons on his PRC Accent device and told his parents just what was on his mind. “Mom, Dad, want, ball,” Eddie’s machine said, after Eddie pressed a series of Clipart icons.

Eddie, who first came to The Children’s Institute in 2015 at age two, is being featured today as part of May’s Better Speech & Hearing Month. Read More...



Open House at Our New Project Star Office!

Posted by The Children's Institute - May 18, 2017

Looking for something fun to do this coming Sunday? Come down to Washington for an Open House at our new Project Star office.

The Open House, which runs from 1pm to 4pm at 357 East Maiden Street, Washington, Pa 15301, will feature numerous games, face-painting, an Italian Ice truck, a visit from Spiderman and a princess along with the opportunity for kids to see a Washington Fire Dept fire engine up close.
Project Star will also be giving away 12 bikes along with helmets and numerous door prizes at this family-friendly event.

“We at Project Star are very excited for this event.We have contacted many agencies and members of the community and the response has been overwhelming and up-lifting. We are expecting a large turn-out and we are planning on having a fun and exciting Sunday,” Washington County Family Recruiter Jeff Kazarick stated. “Sunday is going to be a fun and interactive way for us to spread our message to the community.”  Read More...



The Smart Palate Story - Better Speech & Hearing Month

Posted by The Children's Institute - May 18, 2017

Benjamin Bigi puts the customized, acrylic mold inside his mouth and begins.

“Wrrrrrrrote,” the 11-year-old says. “Rrrrrrrun.”

“Did you hear that R? Rrrrrrrun?” replies speech-language therapist Darcy Leoni. “Before, it was ‘wwwwwwwon.’”

As he speaks, blue and yellow electronic dots flicker on a computer screen image of his mouth, indicating where he is placing his tongue. The mouthpiece is connected via the computer’s USB port and a series of wires that lead back to the mouthpiece. A sensor even records the words he is pronouncing, showing how the lighted dots line up with soundwaves. Read More...



Ian's Success Story - Better Speech & Hearing Month

Posted by The Children's Institute - May 16, 2017

For the Allsup’s, speech therapy is a family affair.

Parents Chris and Kelly both had speech therapy as kids but their son, Ian, who is nearing six years old, is getting a slightly different experience at The Children’s Institute. In short, the old flip cards have been replaced by iPads & speech games. And Ian’s diagnosed phonological processing disorder has improved by leaps and bounds since he started therapy here.

We feature him today as part of May’s Better Speech & Hearing Month.

“I started two years ago with Ian and he was highly unintelligible. Dad had to translate 90 percent of what he was saying to me,” speech-language pathologist Inbal K. Vellucci said. “He really just took off. Now we’re really just cleaning up. You’ll hear him – he sounds great!” Read More...



National Nurses Week 2017 Highlight: Denise Kelly

Posted by The Children's Institute - May 12, 2017


Nurse Denise Kelly’s story at The Children’s Institute started in October 1993.

“One of my classmates was an employee here,” said Denise, who studied at Shadyside Hospital Nursing School. “I was just going to work here ‘til I found out what I wanted to do. That was 23 years ago.”

Since then, Denise has worked on a variety of units and during a wide variety of shifts. These days, she works three, 12-hour overnight shifts each week on 3WS, the inpatient wing of our hospital. We are profiling her today as part of National Nurse’s Week.  Read More...



Dr. Gross: Inventor of the DIEZ Method

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

DIEZ is a novel, respiratory-based therapy for children and adults who do not have any disease or physical problem, but still have trouble getting food to travel through the esophagus into the stomach.

Symptoms include feeling a lump in the throat, food sticking in the throat or chest, or undigested food coming back up during or shortly after meals.

It started over 8 years ago when Dr. Gross – now a speech-language pathologist at The Children’s Institute, then working with adults at UPMC – saw an elderly woman who, had Botox injected into her Upper Esophageal Sphincter (UES) because solid food could not enter the top of her esophagus.

After the injection the woman was able to swallow food again, but surprisingly not liquids. In fact, every time she took a drink, after a few seconds, the liquid shot out of her mouth like a fountain.  Read More...



National Nurses Week 2017 Highlight: Jen Jarrell

Posted by The Children's Institute - May 10, 2017


Nursing is often described as being a passion rather than a job. This is no different for long-time nurse Jen Jarrell, who uses this passion each and every day to help those who need it most.

Jen has been a nurse for over a decade now in various fields such as cardiac critical care, extended hospital care, and homecare for kids. She has only worked in the Behavioral Health Unit one year at The Children’s Institute and yet she has quickly become one of the “go to” nurses on the unit, says Director of Nursing Nicole Garcia.

She also describes Jen as “knowledgeable and approachable, always maintaining a positive demeanor” in addition to being able to “motivate both patients and staff to do their best, and supports the team when there are difficult situations.”

Jen describes her job as “a fun work environment” despite the day-to-day challenges.
“I didn’t expect to like it [the Behavioral Health Unit]. But it’s something that made my career feel fresh again.”  Read More...



DIEZ Method Saves Eating for Cailyn and Simon

Posted by The Children's Institute - May 09, 2017

One thing went through young Cailyn Milbert’s head every time she ate as a kid.
“Don’t throw up! Don’t throw up!” she told me. “Something’s wrong with me.”

But she did throw up – almost every time she ate. Her elementary school principal made her eat in the corner of the school’s office, facing the wall, because they thought it was behavioral. And doctors, puzzled, found nothing.

We feature her and another boy with similar swallowing issues today as part of Better Speech & Hearing Month.
“When she was three months old, they kept saying, ‘There’s no blockage, she’s fine,’” Nicole, Cailyn’s mother, said. “As time went on, I started to realize there was something going on, because she’d even throw up at school – every day. If they did a strep test, they knew to do it over a garbage can.”

By age 7, the problem persisted.

Then, Cailyn, who weighed barely 40 lbs., came to The Children’s Institute, where speech-language therapist Roxann Gross , PhD, found food was getting stuck in her esophagus, and taught Cailyn her DIEZ Method, a new method of breathing while she ate.  Read More...



Join The Amazing Runners for the Team Alex Fund Run

Posted by The Children's Institute - May 08, 2017

The Team Alex Fund started in 2009 around a four-year-old Pittsburgher with a rare spinal disorder. This year, they’re looking for you.

Organizers are throwing the Eighth Annual Team Alex 5K/5-Mile Run, Walk and Hand-Cycle on Saturday, May 20, starting at 9 a.m. at the North Park Boathouse in Allison Park, Pa. Post-race festivities include food and beverages, a DJ, awards ceremony, a 50-yard dash for kids, and a Chinese auction. Those interested in taking part can register online at TeamAlexFund.org.

The Children’s Institute team – should you choose to join us – is called The Amazing Runners.
The walk event is the organization’s biggest annual fundraiser, and has helped it fund more than $150,000 in grants and awards during the past eight years, said Christine O’Brien, a Team Alex Fund board member who’s also a social worker at The Children’s Institute. Read More...



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