POTC Program Engaging Families in Unique and Special Ways

Hayden and Halle

Hayden Cecchini was born three minutes after his twin sister Halley, and spent 2 weeks in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) before being able to go home. Hayden’s mom, Vanessa reflects on that moment, “When we left the hospital, we left with two wonderful children and a diagnosis of cerebral palsy.”

It wasn’t how the Cecchini family imagined taking home their twins, or how parenthood would go for them exclaimed Vanessa. “Hayden came out fighting and is still a fighter to this day. He pushed himself to walk by 18 months, desperately wanting to keep up with Halley who had been walking since 9 months, and he has continued to fight with everything else he has faced so far.”

Vanessa adds that last summer Hayden tried climbing the rock wall in their backyard play structure and fell every day for over 3 months. “But, he eventually did it!” she says. “This year, he’s climbing with confidence and speed.”

For the past three years, the Society for Manitobans with Disabilities (SMD) has been part of the Cecchini’s lives and they have received multiple services from our Provincial Outreach Therapy for Children program (POTC). “We have received physiotherapy (PT) and occupational therapy (OT) from the POTC program as well services from many SSCY partners such as the Child Development Clinic, Family Support Coordinator, and the Orthotics department where Hayden had his Ankle-Foot Orthosis (AFO) made.”

Hayden and Halle at soccer

When asked what benefits Hayden and the family have experienced through SMD’s services Vanessa replies, “The services we have had through SMD have given us as parents the confidence and reassurance that Hayden will continue to develop and succeed in life. Our in-home monthly Physiotherapy and Occupational Therapy appointments were not only beneficial for Hayden but for myself as well.” She adds, “Each month, Hayden got stronger, accomplished more, and was making progress in the areas he needed to.”

“He never even knew he was doing therapy most of the time,” she jokes. “He just knew that Becky and Heather, his POTC OT and PT, were coming to play with him and Halley. He couldn’t wait for the days they came, and loved every minute with them. The games and activities that we were given to do each month made for new experiences and fun and included Halley as well, which is why I believe he never knew he was the one needing extra support in those areas.”

“I felt a weight of stress lifted off my shoulders each month when we saw Becky and Heather,” Vanessa says. “A breath of fresh air really. They weren’t only there for Hayden little did they know, but for me as his mom as well. They comforted me on days I cried with fear for his future or a day when I felt I wasn’t doing enough and needed to do more. For that, I will be forever grateful.”

Hayden at DQ

The Cecchini family has adapted to always making sure their home, surroundings, and outings are a safe place for Hayden, who falls often and needs support. “We will never be the family that watches our children on a play structure, rather we will always be within arm’s reach, on the structure with him or avoiding a busy playground all together,” Vanessa says. “Large crowds, most play structures, and places with uneven surfaces are not somewhere we can be relaxed and enjoy our time together as it very quickly can result in an accident for when he falls he doesn’t have the reaction time to get his hands out to help break that fall.” She adds, “Even though there are obstacles, it doesn’t stop Hayden nor us as a family from enjoying life and making memories.”

Hayden thrived in preschool, and now in kindergarten. He is loved and taken extra care of by his support workers. He is included in almost everything the programs and school does, and is extremely social.

The schools have made adaptations to make sure he is as safe as possible, and he is enjoying his time so far. “As parents, we were scared at first of letting go and allowing someone else to be in charge of his safety and care,” Vanessa adds. “However, it has been amazing for both our children and us to have the school experience we have had so far.”

Hayden and Halle hugging

When asked what SMD means to her family, Vanessa answers, “I am not sure I can sum up what SMD truly means to us. A place of amazing resources, exceptional care, and hope for Hayden’s future. We as a family would not be where we are today without all the care and support we have received from SMD.”

When asked to share some of Vanessa’s favourite SMD memories around Hayden’s experiences she says, “I have a few favourites, but the collective experiences we’ve had and how they have made us feel is what is most important. The smiles when we walk into SSCY Centre, the excitement my kids have when they walk in and get stickers at the front door every time. The way everyone makes Hayden, Halley, and myself feel. We feel important, loved and listened to with every concern. I can’t bottle that up into one memory as it’s a constant and ongoing feeling. Every family and child in need of these services has a different story, and they are all unique and special.”

Vanessa reflects back on the moment leaving the hospital when they first found out about Hayden’s diagnosis. She remembers how challenging it was to accept their new reality and that extra care and services would be required. “It wasn’t what I had thought his life or ours would be like. However, I am truly thankful for all that SMD has done for Hayden and for us as a family. We are so fortunate to access these amazing programs and services.”

To learn more about our POTC program:

Betty Page
Administrative Assistant
P: (204) 975-3269
E: bpage@smd.mb.ca