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By Leaps & Bounds: Italia's Story of Growth

By Leaps & Bounds: Italia's Story of Growth
Italia wearing Children's Institute glasses, smiling.
October 21, 2020
You may recognize Italia Trigona as the cover star of the most recent issue of Amazing Kids magazine. A superhero in training, Italia is meeting developmental milestones by leaps and bounds through hard work and with strong support from her parents Matt and Jenny, big brother Nico, and a team of therapists. It’s the way she approaches most of life’s activities.


“Some days life for Italia is like one giant run-on sentence with no punctuation,” explains Jenny, 6-year-old Italia’s mother. “Italia has autism, and her actions and thoughts and feelings are all jumbled together. Physical, occupational, and speech therapies provided by The Children’s Institute are adding the punctuation to Italia’s story, helping her process, defining her goals, and cultivating the skills she needs to grow.”

With the health and safety changes implemented this spring due to COVID-19, Italia and Jenny now participate in physical therapy sessions in the family’s driveway, coached via telehealth by Laura Smith, PT, DPT. Italia can independently ride both a bike with training wheels and a scooter, which strengthens her balance and coordination and provides new social opportunities to engage with her peers.


“We tried to continue our monthly in-person therapy sessions this spring, but Italia quickly removes her mask,” Laura describes. “Italia and Jenny quickly adapted to teletherapy visits. I instruct engaged family members like Jenny on ways to use household items as therapy equipment and train them how to best facilitate functional activities and exercises in their home environment. Jenny is very receptive to taking recommendations, and Italia loves showing me how she ‘plays’ with Mom.”

Italia also receives occupational and speech teletherapy through The Children’s Institute. All three of her therapists work collaboratively to achieve integrated goals. Katie Stanley, MS, OTR/L, helps Italia improve self-sufficiency by mastering a variety of activities of daily living. With weekly speech and language support from Emilie Okopal, MS, CCC/SLP, Italia is also speaking in short sentences and can communicate her wants and needs.


“Italia is a joy to work with,” says Emilie. “She is exploding in language right now. It’s rewarding to see her growing and learning through both receptive and expressive language skills that promote more advanced communication like conversation. Increasing her ability to socialize will help Italia form relationships with people outside her family.”

“I’m so grateful for The Children’s Institute, and for each of the therapists who are intertwined in our lives,” Jenny concludes. “These gifted women have been Italia’s voice, her arms and legs, her heart. Our family has celebrated countless firsts because of them – first sentences, first bike ride, first baseball game, first day of school. They care so much about Italia. Laura, Katie, and Emilie have empowered Italia to become the child she is today, and they are equipping her with the potential for a beautiful future.”

Our experienced physical health therapists are transforming the lives of many amazing children and their families. You can be a lifeline for amazing kids like Italia. Please consider making a gift to support our Amazing Kids Fund at amazingkids.org/giving.

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