At only two years of age, Malachi has achieved more goals than most of his peers. In just one year he has gone from limited sitting ability to crawling independently, walking with minor assistance with a walker and made huge strides in speech development.
It was just a few months after his birth that his mom, Cami, says she noticed he was not hitting the milestones of a typically developing child. He had limited muscle control and was not making sounds like he should. “We just had a general feeling (there might be a delay) combined with him not holding his head up and making baby talk,” she said.
Based on a recommendation from their pediatrician, Malachi’s family brought him to Heartspring for an evaluation. It was shortly after that he was diagnosed with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy (DMD) which affects muscle control, strength and speech development. DMD is rarely diagnosed in children as young as Malachi because most symptoms don’t present themselves until the child is older and more developed. As a result of his diagnosis it was recommended that he begin occupational, speech and physical therapies.
Amber Teal, physical therapist, said Malachi’s diagnosis presented a challenge due to his young age. “I was unsure about what was going to be realistic in terms of goals or his overall prognosis in regards to gross motor skills,” she says. “However, Malachi has made great progress in the last year. With the right motivation, Malachi has been able to walk with a push toy from the gym to the lobby with little assistance.”
Speech development is something all two year olds work on. Speech-language pathologist Molly Murphy says that Malachi is able to express himself, even while his language skills are still developing. “Malachi works on basic receptive language skills, such as his ability to identify pictures and objects and to follow simple directions. He also works on expressive language skills, including imitating vocalizations and signs. Malachi now uses several signs to communicate and he is beginning to be able to imitate some isolated speech sounds.”
At Heartspring, educating the families of children with special needs is an important tool in their success. Murphy says Malachi’s family works with him at home between therapy sessions and that contributes to his accomplishments. “Malachi’s family has helped his progress by modeling and encouraging (him) to use the signs he learns at Heartspring.”
For Cami, the changes she has seen in her son provide plenty of evidence that Heartspring is the right place for him. “I can’t believe all the changes I am seeing in him. He is now able to roll, crawl and walk with assistance. He is now able to communicate with us and make recognizable sounds.”
When asked how Heartspring has impacted her family, Cami is quick to point out that not only the therapists want to see her son succeed. “It means so much to have a great place to bring Malachi – a place where everyone, not just his therapists, know and love him and truly have his best interests at heart. I can’t imagine a better place for Malachi to be. “