Each week when 2-year-old Gracie Collins arrives at Children’s Village for physical therapy she excitedly swaps her walker (called a Pacer) for an imaginary super-hero cape where for one hour she becomes, ‘Super Baby.’
Super Baby flies through the air, throws giant balls across the room, scoots and rolls on her tummy and even races big sister and mommy down the hall.
What Super Baby doesn’t always realize (in the midst of her many adventures) is she’s working on core strength, flexibility and muscle tone. Gracie was born with a heart condition known as Ebstein’s Anomaly. At just one month old, she experienced a heart attack and ultimately a stroke. The stroke ultimately left her with a brain injury and a weakened left side, requiring occupational, physical and speech therapy.
“At 18-months-old, Gracie wasn’t sitting up independently, nor was she communicating very much,” her mom Tara said.
But with the help of Children’s Village physical therapist Katie Buck and the invention of ‘Super Baby,’ Gracie is making developmental strides in leaps and bounds. Today, she can scoot, sit and walk with a pacer. She’s also learning to crawl and stand independently.
“For each child, we evaluate where they are at and set goals in conjunction with the family,” Katie Buck said. “Each child’s treatment plan is going to be individualized. At first, Gracie really didn’t like to be on her stomach, so although that’s important for her to do the tummy time, we followed her lead and worked on sitting and standing. Now we are circling back around and doing more floor work.”
As her gross and fine motor skills have evolved and developed, so has her ability to communicate. While cognitively, Gracie understands just about everything, the part of her brain that controls speech was impacted by her stroke. With the help of an iPad, learning sign language and regular speech therapy, Gracie is now speaking some words, using a handful of signs and uses adaptive technology on her iPad to communicate.
“Gracie has shown us that anything is possible, her mom Tara said. “She might just go about it in her own way, but that’s fine with us.”