Gabriel is an avid skateboarder, singer, and an up-and-coming foodie.
In the past year, 7-year-old Gabriel has graduated from the puréed diet that he was on for six years and has started eating solid foods.
Now, he enjoys spending family time, with his mother, father, and older brother, at restaurants where he enthusiastically orders his favourite dishes like steak, sushi, or dumplings.
“It sounds so silly, but it was such a big deal to us,” his mother, Fabiana, adds with a laugh.
Gabriel, who was born pre-term at 26-weeks, spent 146 days in a neonatal intensive care unit. The first year of his life, Fabiana says, was wrought with developmental challenges. When Gabriel was one, Fabiana expressed her concerns at a neo-natal follow up. They were then referred to Holland Bloorview.
At 18 months, Gabriel was diagnosed with cerebral palsy, affecting all four of his limbs.
When he turned two, Gabriel started at Bloorview School Authority—Holland Bloorview’s on-site school that serves the hospital’s clients—where he accessed the therapeutic pool and also found his confidence.
“All the learning was hands on, and through play, he built his self-confidence,” says Fabiana.
And while Gabriel has grown out of the school, he still visits the hospital for his dentist appointments, developmental pediatrician, and the communication and writing aids service team to practice his eye gaze, a method he uses to assist in his communication.
Although the family still faces challenges related to accessibility—sometimes they have to carry the wheelchair up due to a lack of an elevator—Fabiana doesn’t let that stop her son from reaching his full potential.
“Gabriel is not his diagnosis,” she says. “He likes to have fun like any other kid, he’s a happy child, and he brings that same happiness into our lives.”