Scholarship gives hope to 3-year-old needing special therapy

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — At 3 years old, Ruby Austin has new, pink glasses that her parents, Rachael and Kyle, say seem to help her see a little better, despite her vision processing disorder.

She looked happy wearing them as she sat down to listen to her parents talk about her therapy and her progress. 

“There were no complications with pregnancy or with the birth itself. We were so happy to have this little girl come into the world, so we just kind of faced all the crazy, newness of being first-time parents,” Rachael Austin explained about Ruby’s birth. 

The Austins didn’t realize anything was different about Ruby until she was several months old, and they didn’t get confirmation of that until an MRI at six months old.

“There were certain results that showed up as abnormal, but overall, there was no concrete diagnosis or anything like that, that the doctors were able to tell us. And that’s still the case now,” Kyle Austin said.

With no clear answers, they’ve tried to help Ruby work through her neurological difficulties as best they can. Traditional physical therapy did not work well, so they turned to the Anat Baniel Method, a therapy that has shown promise for various conditions, including undiagnosed developmental delays.

“There’s a special emphasis on very intentional and slow movements. So, leading the child through moving their body in different ways and positions so that they start to understand it as an interconnected system, which for a typically developing child just kind of happens naturally as they start to explore the world. But, for someone like Ruby who has low muscle tone and isn’t able to kind of have that same control on, she really needs to have someone guide her into those positions and into those situations”, Rachael Austin explained.

They noticed a huge difference in Ruby’s quality of life. She couldn’t sit at all prior to going through this therapy and her head control was really poor. She would slump over a lot even when sitting in a high chair, but can now sit easily in the chair and can even sit unassisted for a period of time.

“She went from, basically, being on her back all the time, to now she loves to roll on her side, stretch out her arms and push off things with her legs,” Kyle Austin said. 

This kind of life-improving therapy is typically not covered by insurance and isn’t cheap. A scholarship through the Family Hope Foundation has helped the Austins avoid difficult conversations about Ruby’s care.

(Courtesy: The Family Hope Foundation)

“I think there’s always going to be a struggle to find the balance, but we want to make sure we’re doing everything we possibly can to put her in a position to learn and grow. Without the support of the foundation, I think that conversation would have been much tougher and there would have been so much more stress for us on our relationship, our household”, Kyle Austin said.

He added that knowing this support has been available to them and other families in similar situations is amazing. 

The deadline for families to apply for the Family Hope Foundation Scholarship is March 1. For anyone considering applying, the Austins say “don’t hesitate.”

Rachael said the therapy Ruby is going through has made them feel more confident.

“Empowered I would say is the best word for it. It’s empowered her and us on so many different levels. And we’re so grateful for that,” Rachael Austin said.