Pediatric speech therapy helps baby with genetic disorder thrive | Ascension

Pediatric speech therapy helps baby with genetic disorder thrive

On Nov. 20, 2019, Aleiza Corral was born at the NewLife Center at Ascension Via Christi St. Joseph, weighing 7-pounds, 10-ounces and sporting a full head of light brown hair.

But she also exhibited low muscle tones and didn't respond to stimulus, which led to her being admitted to the Level III Neonatal Intensive Care Unit for care and evaluation.

Four days later, Aleiza was transferred to Children's Mercy in Kansas City, where after testing she was diagnosed with Prader-Willi syndrome, a genetic disorder that in newborns causes weak muscles, poor feeding, and developmental delays.

Given her diagnosis and difficulty sucking and swallowing, she had a gastric feeding tube placed so that her parents could bring her back home to Wichita.

In January, her parents brought her to Ascension Via Christi St. Francis to be seen by the pediatric rehabilitation team.

Chelsea Walker, one of the two pediatric speech pathologists who lead the department's oral motor and feeding program, completed Aleiza's assessment and shortly after, she and her mother began working with Jessica Domnick, Walker's colleague.

"I was just hoping to get her off the G-tube and able to take a bottle," says her mother, Valeria Corral, adding that while she and her husband, Leonso, had high hopes for their daughter, they knew it would take time.

Aleiza's therapy sessions were focused on helping improve her oral coordination skills, which were hampered by the low muscle tone in her mouth, tongue and lips.

"We targeted bottle and spoon feeding, chewing skills, and cup and straw drinking," says Domnick.

By mid-June, Aleiza was completely weaned off the G-tube and after nearly four months of reliably taking full bottle feedings by mouth, her G-tube was removed.

"Once she figured out how to bottle feed, her other skills came pretty quickly," says Domnick. "It took a few tries of different things that her mom could do at home for her to catch on and develop her other skills."

By January, with all her feeding skills fully functional, Aleiza was discharged from therapy.

"Her mom was super excited and I was super excited, too," says Domnick. "I might have cried a bit at her last session because she had come such a long way."

Says Valeria: "At first, the thought of therapy scared me a little because I didn't expect to have to need that. But everyone was so supportive and sweet. Any question or doubt I had, Jessica let me know it would be OK. We have our own therapy family now!"

As for Aleiza, "She's doing great," Valeria says.

Although her doctors had warned that she might not be walking until she was 3 or 4 years old, she's beginning to take her first steps now at just 17 months.

"She can say a few words, is signing and feeding herself and is just her own person," says Valeria. "She's pretty independent," she adds, noting that is exactly what she and her husband had hoped she would be.