by Sarah Thiel, pediatric speech and language pathologist, Center for Children’s Rehabilitation at Beaumont Children’s Hospital
Seeing a child walk, communicate or even eat when they previously couldn’t is a wonderful experience. That’s why we smile when our patients come through the door. We’ve had the honor of working with Hannah Smith and her family at the Beaumont Children’s Hospital Center for Children’s Rehabilitation for more than a year now.
Hannah is a beautiful 6-year-old girl with a bright smile of her own. She’s incredibly friendly and waves to everyone she sees in our department, every single time she comes in. She lights up our treatment sessions with her sweet attitude and willingness to participate wholeheartedly in every activity.
The progress Hannah has made since we first met her is incredible. She’s worked with Beaumont Children’s Hospital pediatric rehabilitation specialists in physical therapy, occupational therapy and speech therapy over the past year.
When she began therapy for dysphagia, a pediatric feeding and swallowing disorder, Hannah was able to eat only pureed foods. She received the majority of her nutrients through tube-feeding. Now, she is actively taking bites of a variety of foods, and is willing to try new things every week.
Hannah receives therapy for cerebral palsy symptoms as well. Although she came to us as an independent walker, she had difficulty transitioning over various floor surfaces without being extremely hesitant and wanting assistance. She is now able to transition over differing terrains independently, and her physical therapy team continues to work with her on stepping over elevated surfaces.
This spring, Hannah participated in our annual Bike Day event. Thanks to donations made to Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals through events like Dance Marathon at the University of Michigan, she received an adaptive bicycle that enables her to have just as much fun as other children her age. She loves her new purple bike, and rides with assistance frequently at home.
Hannah has been receiving speech therapy since September of 2012. She had been diagnosed with a severe oral/verbal apraxia of speech, dysarthria and severe receptive/expressive language disorder. Gestures and grunting were her primary means of communication. Since it is profoundly difficult for her to use verbal speech, we have had success using a picture board as well as an iPad. Today, Hannah can request a desired object using a three-picture sentence on her board and she responds to yes/no questions using her iPad.
Hannah and her family are a true example of how never to give up, to always stay positive and to always keep smiling. They are truly a joy to work with. We can’t wait to see what Hannah accomplishes next.