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Try, Try Again

Story by Teressa G. Reidy, MS, OTR/L, Occupational Therapist with Kennedy Krieger’s Constraint-induced and Bimanual Therapy Program

Matt and TeresaI never met a kid who tries so hard.

Even with the limited abilities he has, I have never seen Matthew Slattery sad or upset. If he ever feels sorry for himself, he never shows it. And he never seems to show up to therapy without a smile.

Of course, all of that is well and good—it makes him a pleasure to work with and helps everyone involved in his care to remain positive and hopeful. But it takes more than positivity to produce outcomes: It takes determination and perseverance—traits that Matthew has in abundance.

Matthew first came to Kennedy Krieger’s inpatient unit in a coma after a terrible car crash left him with a severe traumatic brain injury. Later, when I first began working with him in the Specialized Transition Program (STP), he could move only his left index finger. Add to that the emotional blow he and his family had experienced—his mother died in the accident—and we knew he had a tough road ahead.

Fast forward 10 months, though, and we are seeing a much, much different Matthew. He’s playing video games and board games, writing his name, riding an adapted bike, walking with a walker, driving a power wheelchair, picking up things with his right and left hands, and learning to change his shirt. We’ve also been able to incorporate different robotic technologies—such as the Armeo® Boom and the Hand Tutor—into his therapy. The results have been awesome, partly because many of these tools are conducted much like video games, and you receive scores at the end of a session. And Matthew is always, always aiming for a higher score.

This young guy does not give up. It’s just not in his nature. Whether a task is seemingly minor or major, there is no task so unimportant that he does not give it his all. As a result, it’s not just his progress that has exceeded our expectations—his dedication, too, goes above and beyond. For Matthew, it’s not enough to try. He insists on trying and trying and trying again, until he not only succeeds, but achieves perfection or the closest thing to it. His tenacity and unceasingly positive attitude provide constant inspiration for those of us lucky enough to work with him every day and who get to watch every bit of progress.

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