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Turning Work Into Child's Play

  • Author: Jude A
  • Date Submitted: Jul 13, 2021

Jude Aquino doesn't understand Casa Colina is a place for recovery. He thinks it's a place to play. But then, Jude is only four years old, and he loves to roll balls on the sloping green lawn, chase after bubbles, climb the play structure outside the Children's Services Center, and go on adventures across the campus with his therapists.

Soon after Jude was born, his parents, Jade Sison-Aquino and Bryant Aquino, realized something wasn't right. Jude didn't sleep well, had difficulty eating, and cried incessantly. It seemed as if nothing could comfort him.

Tests showed that Jude was born with chromosome abnormalities that resulted in a broad diagnosis of "globally delayed." He is small for his age and developing so far at about a two-year-old level.

Before finding Casa Colina Children's Services, his mother had to spend hours driving to multiple therapy clinics in different cities to get Jude the services he needed. Now he receives a full complement of back-to-back physical, occupational, and speech therapies at Casa Colina three days a week. The result: His parents have seen their youngest boy blossom.

Previously, Jude wouldn't try to walk or even crawl; instead, he scooted along the floor on his bottom. After working with his Casa Colina therapists, Jude is hard to keep down. "We arrived with a scootcher," said his mom, "now we have a runner."

Jude is accompanied to Casa Colina by his mother and a rotating crew of half of his eight siblings at each visit. "For us, the Casa Colina staff members are more than just therapists, more than just our 8-10 a.m. schedule every week," said Jade. "It is like visiting family."

Early on, Jude relied on a gastronomy tube for nutrients. He also had esophageal problems. So among his therapies at Casa Colina is learning how to chew, swallow, and pace his eating. He sings songs about brushing his teeth and practices that skill. In speech therapy, he is picking up sign language, using communication boards, and building his vocabulary ("Mom" is a favorite word).

The therapists assign "homework" for the family. "They give us the tools that help him progress," said his mother. Everyone gets involved. Jude's siblings throw toys on the ground so Jude has to squat to pick them up, pile up pillows for him to climb, or dance around him to encourage him to move.

"We teach families exercises and skill-building they can do at home," said Michael Chang, PT, one of Jude's Casa Colina therapists. "The family actually does much of the rehabilitation themselves."

Jude's prognosis is an open book. "We don't know the endpoint," said Bryant. "We take it one day at a time. But we are seeing progress every day."