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Young Ambassador poised to bring positive change

If you meet three-year-old Camilo and he likes you, he might ask you for a high ten. 

That’s right, you had better raise both hands, because two hands are coming your way. 

This might not seem like a big deal, but for Camilo, his mom, Maria, and his family, it’s huge. Raising his left hand to meet yours is a giant leap forward in his development.  

Camilo has cerebral palsy and came to Holland Bloorview 18 months ago. When he arrived, he used a walker for mobility and had minimal control or even awareness of his left hand.  

As an outpatient, he’s undergoing physiotherapy, occupational therapy, and speech therapy. He’s also on a waiting for his first appointment at the hospital’s feeding clinic.

For every treatment or therapy, his family feels involved. 

Part of the process

“Staff listen and make it very clear that parents are a key component in the rehab of their child,” said Maria. “We feel in control and well supported by a very professional team. It makes a huge difference for our family.”

She also loves how therapists tailor their “fun, play-based therapy” to a child’s personality. In Camilo’s case, his physiotherapist was aware of his sensitive nature. 

“She understood Camilo,” said Maria. “I saw a huge change in his use of the left hand because of her constant encouragement.” And with those two hands, Camilo now loves playing with Lego and Play-Doh, and he’s also showing a creative side through colouring and painting.

And his stability and balance? That’s improved too, so much so, that he rarely uses his walker and now walks independently with the support of an AFO (Ankle-Foot-Orthotic) on his left leg, and a left-hand splint. He’s so much more mobile, he’s dashing around the hospital’s gym and on the outside playground in warmer months.    

Ambassador in training

Camilo’s family hopes that strength and confidence will carry into his voice and how he interacts with others. That’s why Camilo recently became a Holland Bloorview Ambassador – something he and his family, are very excited about. 

He’s too young to understand challenges surrounding disability awareness and accessibility, but his family hopes that in time he will be a vocal agent of positive change. 

“When Camilo used a walker, we experienced a lot of people looking as if he were an alien,” said Maria. “A lot of people wouldn’t respect the space he needed to maneuver the walker and would actually obstruct his walking. I've also had people look at his walker and ask ‘What is that?’, ‘What's wrong with him?’”

“I would like more people to speak to us and ask questions in a respectful way so that we can teach them and have a more inclusive society. That’s why we want to be Ambassadors because it’s important for people who aren’t affected by disabilities to be educated and understand.”

Camilo’s family has big plans for him. “I hope that he’s confident in who he is and doesn’t let his disability hold him back,” said Maria. “In fact, I want his condition to motivate him to do amazing things with his life and educate people so that we can create a less stigmatized society.”

Such goals are definitely worthy of a high ten.