Meet Sophia Yovino — she is a 4-year-old ball of energy with a forceful spirit. Fia, as she is affectionately known, was delivered at Christiana Hospital and born with a brachial plexus injury that prevented the use of her arm. Shortly after she was delivered, her mom, Tracey Yovino, took her to see occupational therapist Pam Green with Christiana Care Rehabilitation Services.
Green saw Fia three times a week for the brachial plexus injury. Nine months into the therapy, however, Green began to notice other problems — sensory-processing issues and developmental delays. “This was a total game changer,” Yovino said. “Fia was diagnosed with autism and encephalopathy. The reason her outcome is so good today is because Pam caught it early on.”
At nine months, the brachial plexus injury had significantly improved, but Pam and Fia continued to work together on sensory processing and motor planning issues. The key to their success was in the way that Green approached Fia.
“Every time they got together, Pam would come in at Fia’s level, wherever she was that day. Whether it meant just playing in the rice box or pushing a scooter down the hall while picking up bean bags, Pam could sense where Fia was and varied her therapy accordingly,” Yovino said. As a result, an amazing bond formed between the two. “Fia hugged Pam before she hugged her own grandfather,” she said. “That’s the level of trust they have.”
Green got results, too. An incredible moment came one day when Green and Yovino took Sophia to Christiana Mall. “Pam wanted to give Fia some real-world experience in a challenging sensory environment, so we took her to the playground area,” Tracey said. “Not only was she helping Fia, but she was also teaching me how to cue Fia to handle those types of situations. In the end, we sat on a bench crying together as Fia played with other kids for the first time. It was truly amazing.”
Fia is now getting close to kindergarten age, and she is not only surviving, but thriving in her adaptive environment. They are working toward tolerance of typical environments, and with the groundwork that Green has laid for Fia, she is succeeding one step at a time.
“Pam changed Fia’s life. Hands down, changed the outcome of Fia’s life. Had Pam not picked this up so early and worked with her so strongly, no way would we be where we are today. No way would Fia have the life she’s going to have,” Yovino said.
Over the course of time, Yovino learned that she too could depend on Green for help at any moment. “It would be a Sunday night, and I would text Pam with a question. Right away I would get a response. So not only did she help Fia, but she also coached me on how to work with her. That’s just who she is. She really cares.”
Today Green and Fia see less of each other. Fia is doing well and sometimes several months elapse between visits, but their bond has not diminished at all.
“As soon as she sees Pam she opens right up to her. It doesn’t matter how long it’s been,” said Yovino. No doubt it will be a lifelong relationship.