Local Autistic 5 Year Old Finds Help Through Occupational Therapy
View news story by Jessica Foster here
October 4, 2012
Christa Dean Hild
Panama City, Fla.
- Leona Rhodes is an energetic 5 year old who just started kindergarten.
Something her mom didn't think was possible a year ago.
"My son is only 18 months older than her and it was like years difference in their developmental skills," says Melissa Rhodes.
At the age of four when Leona couldn't identify letters of the alphabet or write her name, mom knew it was time to get help.
She says the original diagnosis was asperger mood disorder but now they've changed that to high functioning autism and bi-polar and epilepsy."
In February Leona started working with Healthplex Occupational Therapist Kelsey Spratlin.
She describes her job this way, "We help people with things that occupy their time. If you think of little kids, what occupies their time? Well, play, to learn to grow, to develop, to learn those skills, those numbers, those letters and just basic things like dressing and even eating."
Spratlin says Leona has a lot of challenges including visual perceptual skills.
"Leona when she looks at the letter a she first has to process --what is that? I think that's the letter a and then she has to put it to the paper...and that's when it becomes the issue," says Spratlin.
The frustration can sometimes lead to tantrums. That's also something Leona has to overcome.
But when she learns a new task, like learning to tie her shoes, it's a major triumph.
Leona's mom says that was a day she will never forget. "She learned to tie a knot here and we went to the store the next day and Leona picked out her first pair of shoes."
Leona's mom says the progress she has made in just a few months is astounding. "It wouldn't be apparent to everybody that she's not the same as every other five year old... which in February it was very apparent."
Occupational Therapy isn't just for children. Kelsey Spratlin also helps stroke victims and others with any type of injury who may need help getting back to their occupation.