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Learning Step by Step: Leah's Story

Learning Step by Step: Leah's Story
Leah Wooding walking in the garden at The Children's Institute of Pittsburgh.
July 12, 2021


Leah Wooding is a three-year-old ray of sunshine who smiles all the time. She loves her big brother Sam, Daniel Tiger, and books – especially books about Daniel Tiger.

Leah, who has Down syndrome, began receiving physical and developmental therapies through Early Intervention (EI) at three months old. Occupational therapy was added at six months, followed by speech and language therapy at her second birthday. Her parents, Nici and Jonathan, were encouraged by their EI team to reach out to The Children’s Institute for additional support when Leah was 18 months old.

“The team at The Children’s Institute provided a wonderful complement to Leah’s EI services,” Nici Wooding explains. “When we started, Leah was learning to stand independently. Today, she is walking on her own and climbing stairs. These skills are vital for her to interact with her peers and engage fully in preschool.”

“Therapists at The Children’s Institute have built great relationships with our colleagues in the EI community,” said Jennifer Brilmyer, PT, DPT, DHSc. “We receive a lot of referrals for continuation of services when children age out of EI at their third birthday. We also get connected with kids like Leah, who can benefit from outpatient services at The Children’s Institute while still receiving EI.”

The Children’s Institute provides several on-site therapy options that can’t be accomplished in the home environment, where EI services typically take place. Leah was able to participate in aqua therapy to improve her strength and balance, she has access to adaptive equipment (standers and walkers) at The Children’s Institute, and her gait has improved with the use of leg orthotics. 

Mom Nici with daughter Leah“I’m a strong advocate for starting support services as early as possible,” says Nici Wooding. “Our son Sam began EI for autism at age two. We received a referral for Leah the day after her birth. These early years are such an important time in a child’s development, and both of our children are flourishing because of the skilled and knowledgeable clinicians who have cared so much about what is best for them.”

Leah is motivated to learn, and she works hard. Progress is slow, but steady. Her confidence builds with every accomplishment. Leah senses the attitude of expectation her therapists have. She knows they believe in her, and she believes in herself. Though Leah speaks little, she says two phrases that those who love her can easily understand. The first, of course, is “Daniel Tiger.”

The second – “I did it.”

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