Pediatric Therapy Close to Home

“Therapy is part of his life and he knows no different. I’m just so grateful we have such good therapy on the island.”

Lincoln Gabelein arrives at the hospital with a lot of energy and runs over to the Rehab Care Center. His mom, Kiri Gabelein, helps him rein it in.

“Lincoln, Peyton will be ready for you soon. Please come over here to me and sit down,” she says patiently, while using some sign language to help him understand.

Three-and-half-year old Lincoln has moderate Childhood Apraxia of Speech (CAS). His brain does not send the right signals to his mouth for speech. With this disorder, the speech muscles don’t perform as expected because the brain has difficulty directing coordinated movements.

To speak correctly, Lincoln must learn how to tell his speech muscles how to move the lips, jaw and tongue in ways that result in accurate sounds and words spoken with normal speed and rhythm. He also must memorize all the words he will use. That’s where his speech therapist, WhidbeyHealth’s Peyton Wischmeier, comes in.

“I work on sound and word imitation in order to help Lincoln. Repetition of sounds and words is key in order to increase his accurate production of the sound,” says Wischmeier. “I incorporate play tasks in order to increase his cooperation, as well as make sound production easier and more fun.”

“Peyton noticed that Lincoln would lie on the floor all the time and that he had low muscle tone.” Kiri says. “She recommended that he start seeing an Occupational Therapist (OT), too.”

Enter WhidbeyHealth OT Chrysalis Kendall, who works together with Wischmeier on some cases such as Lincoln’s.

As a pediatric occupational therapist, Kendall works with children who demonstrate difficulty and/or delays in the areas of Activities of Daily Living (everyday tasks that are important for independence and self-care). She also works on motor development, sensory processing, functional play skills and social engagement, as well as challenges with feeding skills related to those areas.

“When he arrived at the clinic, Lincoln had great difficulty communicating,” Kendall says. “He showed intense behavioral challenges and controlling behavior.

He also had difficulty using his body in ways that supported his ability to play, socially engage and practice skills for development,” she says.

Both therapists help Lincoln to utilize his AAC (Augmentative and Alternative Communication) device in order to assist him with daily communication. (The device is a small electronic tablet with pictures on it that Lincoln chooses when he can’t say the word.)
“I have seen a huge improvement since he began coming to WhidbeyHealth last year,” says his mom.

“He couldn’t talk when he started here and now he is forming three-word sentences, making sounds for words he couldn’t say before.”

But the therapy has not only helped her son. It has been hugely beneficial to her and her husband with how to handle Lincoln’s impulsive behavior.

“Before he started seeing Chrysalis, it felt like my days and nights were nearly impossible, but now they’re not as impossible. She has helped us so much with simple actions.”

Kiri says that she had Lincoln evaluated at 18 months of age, which revealed his condition. Although patients can’t be diagnosed until after age 3, Kiri has learned that the younger a person is when therapy services are started the better chance they’ll have to develop. Her recommendation to other parents who are concerned: “If you have a feeling, follow it. Get an evaluation. The younger the better,” she says.

With help from his therapists, his parents, his ACC device and sign language, Lincoln is now able to express himself. He goes to pre-school three days a week and plays with his friends just like every other 3-year-old boy.

“I just try to make it as normal as possible,” Kiri says. “Therapy is part of his life and he knows no different. I’m just so grateful we have such good therapy on the island.”