PITTSBURGH – In a playground surrounded by puzzles, blocks, and sensory toys, 2-year-old Zuri Hill made some of her greatest strides.
“To see her now, compared to a year ago May 2020, is absolutely stunning,” said Zuri’s mother Ashley Hill.
Zuri’s parents, Ashley and Andre Hill, can’t get over how far Zuri has come since she was diagnosed with autism at the age of 18 months.
“We taught her how to kiss and that’s all she wants to do!” Ashley added.
But it wasn’t always like that. The day Zuri was diagnosed with autism, Ashley didn’t know where to turn.
“I cried. I cried as soon as I sat here. They got out, I called [my husband] on the phone and I just sat there crying. He said, ‘It’s fine. She is still closed. Don’t worry, “said Ashley.
Her worries slowly subsided as she added several therapy sessions a week.
In fact, Zuri was working with therapists from early intervention specialists even before she was diagnosed. It is a government-funded program that works with families of infants and young children who have developmental delays.
“We incorporate the same type of therapy into what you do at home every day. So … every diaper change, every meal, every bedtime, out to church – we coach the parents, “Jenni Galbraith, CEO of Early Intervention Specialists, told Channel 11.
She says starting at a young age is key.
“This is a crucial development time for a person’s growth. So many patterns are formed, so many things are learned in that time, ”said Galbraith.
It also helps therapists identify a problem that parents would normally not be aware of.
“We don’t diagnose, but we can say, ‘We see some things that affect us. Let’s talk to your pediatrician or the child development department at the children’s hospital, ”she added.
Because early intervention therapy is funded by the state, the family does not have to pay anything to provide their child with the help they may need.
Dr. Pamela Schoemer, Medical Director for Quality and Safety of the UPMC Children’s Community for Pediatrics, is committed to these therapies. She says they offer help for a variety of issues that young children may be dealing with.
“Sometimes it’s as simple as having a child who has trouble moving their neck and a misshapen head, including speech delays, eating disorders, or general developmental problems,” said Dr. Schoemer.
As for the Hill family, they say that the first step in giving Zuri the help she needed was the best they could do for their daughter.
“Don’t think that there is a stigma just because your child needs extra support. There is no stigma. This is your child. They do what’s best for them, ”Ashley told Channel 11.