Meet Ryan

Client learns to access his world with the help of TEAMability

What would you give to be part of a world just beyond reach?

This is the fundamental question asked in Ryan Mann’s favorite song, “Part of Your World,” from the Disney classic, “The Little Mermaid.”

Much like the fin-laden character Ariel, who, in the song, ponders what it’s like to walk around freely on a pair of feet, Ryan also cannot walk independently.

The 15-year-old was born with a rare chromosomal disorder called Pallister-Killian syndrome, which causes weak muscle tone and limits the ability to speak, among other issues.

Ryan and his mother at 2024 Annual Two-Step Gala

The TEAMability difference

Despite challenges, the TEAMability therapists who have worked with Ryan for the past decade have stopped at nothing to ensure he reaches new milestones. That care and dedication are leagues ahead of other therapy centers that Ryan has used, said his mother, Tina Mann.

At a previous therapy center, Tina recalled a therapist telling Ryan that he did not want to be there as they worked with him using the same routine over and over. Tina said that center was not joyful, and Ryan made no progress.

“Then, we started going to TEAMability, and you could tell Ryan was working really hard,” Tina said. “He would be tired when he was done. But he also just loved being there. Every time, he would loudly protest leaving.”

Speech therapy and assistive technology

At TEAMability, Ryan takes advantage of occupational, physical and speech therapy. His speech therapist has worked with him for six years to refine his use of eye-operated assistive technology, called Eyegaze, which he uses to select words and communicate.

“He doesn’t have language to speak with,” Tina said. “So, the Eyegaze gives him the ability to communicate.”

Now, for instance, if someone visits their home, Ryan can ask them if they’d like play a game with him.

Physical therapy and active learning

Tina said that during physical therapy at TEAMability, Ryan might be working on sitting or standing while a teacher encourages active learning as his muscles work. 

“It helps engage Ryan’s brain when he’s standing or doing physical activities,” Tina said. “Some people think it’s a distraction, but it’s actually really good for his brain to be actively learning at the same time he’s doing the physical activity.”

TEAMability at The MAC

The Manns were among the 40 families already being served at TEAMability’s first location on North Trinity Street. The number of clients has blossomed to about 150 since the nonprofit moved into the larger, specially designed location as the therapy anchor of Morgan’s Multi-Assistance Center (MAC).

Tina said she was excited for Ryan to have access to the ample new space.

“We know it’s a win for all of the other children who couldn’t get into TEAMability, who now will be able to get into TEAMability,” said Tina of the larger population the nonprofit can now serve. “You’ll hear people cheering or clapping or laughing with other children just because everyone’s so happy to see the progress that they’re making.”

A sensory wonderland

Among the new rooms at The MAC location, the space Ryan enjoys most is the sensory room, which has a variety of colorful and tactical objects to promote engagement and a track along the ceiling that can support clients in a harness as they move around the room. 

“Whenever Ryan goes to the sensory room, it means there’s going to be a fun activity,” Tina said. “One day, he did roller-skating. He and I roller-skated together. It was so good. It’s not something you expect to be able to do when your child can’t stand at all. You don’t really ever plan on roller-skating.”

Achievements under the sea

Over time, the staff at TEAMability discovered that Ryan loves the idea of being under the water surrounded by sea creatures. So, one team member draped a hula hoop with streamers and began hanging it above Ryan so he can feel as though he’s underwater while he practices sitting and develops core strength. 

On each visit, another team member sings “Part of Your World” to Ryan to cheer him up.

“The entire staff is really good at paying attention to what the kids like and utilizing that in their therapy session,” Tina said, adding that everyone at TEAMability “can see beyond people’s limitations and help them achieve things.”

"TEAMability is not a miracle, but it is a place where miracles happen!"

Meet Lucy

Love is not enough.

Six-year-old Lucy was born with a rare syndrome, a developmental disorder that affects many parts of her body. She has extremely weak muscle tone, intellectual disability, distinctive facial features, a heart defect, and cortical visual impairment. Lucy is unable to walk or talk. She requires multiple medications daily to control her heart condition. She has a sensory processing disorder that results in her biting herself, picking her skin and moving constantly. 

Lucy’s mother was unable to care for her and she was removed from her home and placed with her loving grandparents. But love is not enough. Lucy’s grandparents soon realized that they could not cope with Lucy’s many challenges. They had hoped to adopt Lucy, but were at the end of their ropes caring for her. With great sadness they were considering giving up custody.

Lucy’s grandmother discovered TEAMability accidentally. She tearfully described her love for Lucy, her desire to raise Lucy, and her total lack of understanding of what Lucy needs in order to achieve her potential.

Lucy has been receiving occupational, physical and speech therapies at TEAMability for 6 months. Her plan of care began with a “sensory diet” – a routine of activities designed to help Lucy become calm and focused. These included swaddling for 15 minutes, gentle swinging, wearing a pressure vest, and working in a darkened, clutter free environment. These activities were alternated with typical therapeutic activities. Lucy’s grandmother was taught how to use these activities at home.

After 6 months, Lucy announces her happy arrival at TEAMability with a loud vocalization as she enters the building. She calmly allows donning of her pressure vest. Although she still requires a sensory diet of alternating activities, Lucy has begun to communicate her wants and needs using simple signs or picture symbols. She is able to ask for more, respond to yes or no and make choices using picture symbols. She walks using a gait trainer and pushes herself on a scooter.

The skills, passion, and patience of TEAMability’s highly qualified therapists have unlocked Lucy’s potential. Her grandmother reports that everyone in their world notices the progress Lucy has made. Lucy’s grandfather has begun attending her therapy sessions. Although he does not speak English, his beaming face echoes Lucy’s grandmother’s words – “I love all of you at TEAMability.”

All children...

Have potential and deserve the opportunity to learn and experience the joy of success.

Children with complex disabilities need specialized educational and therapeutic activities not available in traditional school or health care settings. They require long term therapy and ample time to acquire and maintain skills. In South Texas this unique combination of services is offered only at TEAMability.

We know that seeing is believing.