When a child is diagnosed with a developmental disability, it can be very challenging for a family. Recent estimates in the United States show that about one in six children from ages 3 to 17 have a developmental disability.
Shelly, a local Summit County mother, discovered that her daughter Amelia had Cerebral Palsy when she was born. When asked what advice she would give other parents who receive a diagnosis, she replied “Take time to grieve. You deserve it as a parent. But pick yourself up and focus on your child. Because it’s about them.”
Amelia is now coming up on her third birthday. She has progressed so much with the help of various therapies, including Summit DD’s Early Intervention (EI) program. “We were referred to the EI program when Amelia was in the NICU [Neonatal Intensive Care Unit]. At first I was very skeptical of seeking help. What could they possibly do to help my child?” recalled Shelly.
“But now I can’t say enough about EI and other therapies. I am a firm believer!” Shelly added. In the beginning, Amelia couldn’t sit up, smile, vocalize, and needed to be tube fed. But through therapies at United Cerebral Palsy (UCP) and regular EI home visits, Amelia is eating on her own, speaking, smiling, and developing the strength to sit up.
For the past two years, Melinda Ciccarelli has been Amelia’s Summit DD Developmental Specialist for the EI program. “I enjoy bringing knowledge into the home for the parents to utilize,” Melinda said. “Amelia needs time to work, play, relax, and just be like any other kid. So I suggest strategies to do just that,” she continued.
Melinda also recently helped Shelly access funds from the Family Engagement Program to purchase an adaptable chair for Amelia. The chair unfolds from the size of a briefcase and can be easily adjusted and repositioned for play time, feedings, and more. “It’s the best piece of equipment we own. I can take it anywhere. I can’t say enough good things about it,” shared Shelly.
“I’m very excited to see how Amelia will progress with her therapies and equipment,” Shelly said. In the near future, Amelia will be fitted with a small wheelchair to expand her mobility. “It’s not about ‘my kid is in a wheelchair.’ It is something that opens up the world to her,” she continued.
When asked if she’d like to share any other advice for parents with kids that have a developmental disability, Shelly replied “Don’t be afraid to seek the help of others. Everyone who has helped Amelia has become like family.”