Meet Leigha 

February 2021: Blending therapy into everyday school activities

Young girl doing school work
Leigha is a happy-go-lucky, ambitious, funny and bright little girl. She always has a smile on her face and seems to find a way to brighten up the darkest days. With a sixth birthday to celebrate in February, this little ray of sunshine has come so far since beginning her occupational therapy treatment at KidsAbility to build muscle tone and dexterity into her hand and body!

“Throughout the pandemic, Leigha has amazed us with her ability to adapt and show resiliency in her routines, schoolwork, and family life,” her mom, Tara shares. “Since beginning virtual school this past September, she leaves us in awe as she prints her letters on paper using a pencil or marker, and practices cutting out shapes with scissors. It is truly a sight!”

Leigha also eagerly embraces technology to complete her school work. She types on the keyboard, drags and drops images using a computer touchpad and generally navigates her way around her Google Meetings by muting her microphone, turning her video on and off, and ending the call.

Blending these fine motor skills into her everyday activities are essential for Leigha’s success at school, both in person and virtual – and in building her life skills as well. Tara firmly believes Leigha is where she is today as a direct result of therapy practice, positive reinforcement, encouragement and praise she received during her time at KidsAbility.

Leigha and other children benefit from life skills learned in occupational therapy programs at KidsAbility. Thanks to generous community-minded companies like SC Johnson, KidsAbility is able to meet the needs of a growing community. Most recently, our programs got a great boost; a $25,000 grant from SC Johnson will be used to support occupational therapy programs in Waterloo Region and Guelph-Wellington, including the Cambridge location where Leigha received her support.

For Leigha’s parents, Tara and Michael, community support means everything to their family. “We are so proud of Leigha’s academic progress, her positive demeanor, and her understanding of the gratitude we have for our community,” Tara shares. “She can’t wait until the virus is over to see, play with, and hug her friends again. Until then, our family is safe and well and wish our community the very same! Leigha thanks you too!”

Leigha's Journey 

KidsAbility Ambassador 2018-2019

Leigha has always loved to make a grand entrance! After a rather speedy delivery at birth followed by some time in the NICU to treat jaundice, Leigha’s fast entrance into the world could only be described by her family as “exciting.”

When Leigha turned one, her parents noticed that she was showing signs of delays in her physical abilities. She struggled to roll over and when she crawled Leigha would clench one of her fists and drag her opposite knee behind her, putting the majority of her weight on one leg. An assessment by her pediatrician revealed that Leigha had mild stable cerebral palsy and she was referred to KidsAbility. That was the first time that Tara and Michael learned of the organization that would become, in their words, “like a family.”
Leigha KidsAbility's 2018-2019 Cambridge Ambassador

Leigha came in for her assessment and KidsAbility’s team of therapists immediately rallied around Leigha and her family. Together, they set up goals to help Leigha work towards overcoming her challenges. Occupational therapists helped her with the tension in her hand that was causing her little fists to clench. They also taught Leigha how to grasp small objects with her index finger and thumb—a skill that she used to zip up her coat all on her own—much to her family’s surprise and delight!

A year into Leigha’s journey, her team noticed that her speech still wasn’t coming along, and after early observations and participating in a group program at KidsAbility, she was identified as having a motor control disorder in speech.

“She has grown leaps and bounds in her time at KidsAbility despite the mild challenges she faces with her physical disability, delays and speech disorder,” says Leigha’s mom, Tara.

Looking at Leigha, you might not know that she has had so many challenges early on in life and thanks to the early intervention she received, she has had the support that she has needed to overcome each challenge. Leigha continues to benefit from occupational and speech therapies at KidsAbility’s Cambridge Hub and is regularly checked on by her physiotherapist to ensure that she is still progressing.

“We want to share how important and valuable early intervention can be in a child’s development, especially for those who face seemingly ‘invisible challenges,’” says Tara.

Now at three years of age, Leigha is outgoing and does not shy away from the spotlight. She is always happy to perform for others—be it dance, drama or singing. She likes her sign language classes, puzzles and keeping up with her older siblings. Leigha also takes great pride in telling others that her ‘job’ is the “Superhero Race”— known as the Rotary Classic Superhero Run organized by the Rotary Clubs in Cambridge. Her family regularly participates and fundraises for this event so that other families can in turn benefit from the resources and services that continue to support Leigha on her journey.

“It’s been a huge relief as parents having the team of experts at KidsAbility to walk us through everything instead of us having to figure it out on our own,” says Michael. “This is the place to go.”

“KidsAbility is an amazing and supportive network of compassionate individuals. They are warm, welcoming and sensitive to the entire family’s needs from, from the very first introductions to each and every session we attend. It is never a struggle to get Leigha ready to go to therapy—she gets excited to go ‘play’ and always leaves with more confidence and a smile. As a parent, I always feel supported, respected and informed. We feel blessed to have found KidsAbility!” says Tara.

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