Carter is Stepping Up For UCP-OC

Carter, all smiles in physical therapy.

In honor of STEPtember, which starts today, we’re highlighting Carter, an absolutely adorable two-and-a-half-year-old with global developmental delay who receives physical, occupational and speech therapy and participates in Talk Play Learn group at UCP-OC. His family has committed to walk 10,000 steps per day from September 2-29 to raise funds and awareness for UCP-OC.

At two months of age, Carter’s parents, Melissa and Brian, together with his pediatrician, noticed his visual impairment, At four months, when his vision had not improved, he began wearing glasses to correct his vision and started therapy to help him reach developmental milestones. His impaired vision has led to some considerable delays for Carter, but this happy, tenacious little guy doesn’t mind hard work. Melissa shared that “Carter has made significant strides in all areas of his development with the help of his team at UCP-OC. As a parent, every trip to UCP-OC is my favorite, because upon arrival, Carter can hardly contain his excitement because he knows where he is headed. This reaction alone is remarkable for our family.”

“While typical children are scheduling play dates and other activities, our children’s lives are about therapies. I say children’s because Carter’s little brother Jackson, who is 10 months old, attends every session.  We spend a lot of time at UCP-OC and are grateful it is a home away from home for us. The support and love we receive from everyone is amazing. UCP-OC has really given our son a great opportunity to reach a Life Without Limits,” said Melissa.

Some of Carter’s favorite things include swimming, going for walks, spending any moment possible with our whole family, playing with his little brother and bath time.

Carter with his therapist
Carter with his occupational therapist, Jenn

His therapists Vanessa and Jenn recently took Carter to the park for a co-treatment session in celebration of all he has accomplished in the last few months. By having multiple disciplines all under one roof, UCP-OC’s team of exceptional therapists and child development professionals work together to ensure each child has the services needed to reach their full potential. Carter also receives speech therapy one-on-one with Megan and in group with Pati. Jenn shared  “I am so proud to have such an incredible group of co-workers like Vanessa, Megan, and Pati and kiddos like Carter that continue to amaze me every day. It’s the teamwork that makes the dream work!”

Carter still has work to do catch up developmentally, but he is making great progress and has the support he needs to do so. We can’t wait to see what he will do next! As Melissa said, “he is our biggest inspiration and driving force. If Carter can do it, it can be done. ” And Carter has proven he can do anything he puts his mind to.

Carter and his family are Stepping Up for UCP-OC so that children like Carter have access to the services they need to thrive. Join in this Steptember to improve your health and wellness and help children with disabilities live a Life Without Limits. Create a team of 4 and challenge yourself to take 10,000 steps per day until September 29. Or show your support of Carter’s family by making a donation in their name here.


UCP-OC 2014 Life Without Limits Gala Video

Recent studies show a staggering statistic that 1 in 6 children in the U.S. will be diagnosed with a developmental disability. UCP-OC proudly serves the 1 in 6 children in our community that make up this statistic.


Learn more about the services UCP-OC provides:

Child of the Month: February 2014

Lance: February 2014

Lance in Speech Therapy at UCP-OC
Lance during Speech Therapy at UCP-OC

Lance is almost 3 years-old, and his bubbling personality and joyous spirit will capture your heart immediately. Lance loves trains, and his favorite food is pizza—with heartfelt thanks to his occupational therapist, Ria, who has introduced him successfully to a variety of foods. At therapy, Lance loves to finger paint and do any arts and crafts project. As a Laguna Beach native, keep an eye out for his art work in the Sawdust Festival in a few years!

Sweet, smiling Lance came to UCP-OC at 20 months of age. Prior to receiving therapy at UCP-OC, Lance’s vocabulary was limited to 3 words. His speech therapist, Jeanné, worked diligently with Lance on requesting labeled objects, participating in reciprocal interaction through modeling and play, and strategies to facilitate conversation.  Then one day, after several months of speech therapy, there was a language breakthrough! Lance imitated a word “ma-ma” and then he started imitating more and more words. One of Lance’s favorite activities during therapy is to play in the bean bucket. Jeanne hides objects in the beans and Lance digs through the beans to find and label the hidden treasures. This allows his therapist to further work on labeling nouns and verbs and peer interaction. Today, Lance has greatly improved his receptive and expressive language skill and says multiple word sentences, even using past tense verbs!

After coming to UCP-OC for speech and occupational therapy, Lance joined the very popular Let’s Grow group class with Miss Ana and most recently joined the Talk, Play, Learn group with Miss Pati.

His occupational therapist, Ria, worked with Lance in improving his oral motor skills in order to manage textured foods safely. Prior to his intervention, Lance tended to swallow whole pieces of food without chewing it. Due to this Lance’s diet was limited to mushy textured, stage 3 baby foods. After several months of therapy, Lance is now able to enjoy most toddler foods, but he prefers them in pizza form!

Lance with Brother
Lance with his brother Clayton

Recently Lance became a big brother and is already impressing everyone around him at how nurturing and attentive he is to his baby brother Clayton.

Lance will be turning three at the end of February and will be transitioning out of UCP-OC and into the school district. As difficult as it is to see his smiling face go, it is a true testament to the superior work and dedication our therapists have shown Lance!




Lance Child of the Month and Family

Lance’s mother, Laura Lee, says, Ria, Jeanné, Ana and Pati have been absolutely fantastic with Lance these past 17 months. The changes we have seen in Lance have been nothing short of a miracle, and we will be ever grateful to Lance’s therapists and all of the wonderful people at UCP-OC, including Vianney who was so quick to find Lance a spot when our RCOC case worker inquired; the occupational speech therapist who first assessed Lance in October 2012; Anais who amazes me daily with her sweet disposition and quick, genuine smile; and the many parents I have met who encourage their children and are ever so busy with their toddlers’ schedules but never complain. UCP-OC truly is an amazing place!”


If you would like to make a gift to support the services that are helping Lance and his family, please click here or contact Elizabeth Eckman at  for more information.

World CP Day, Child of the Month: October 2013

October 2013: Wyatt

With World CP Day being this past Wednesday, October 2nd we thought it would be fun to feature a very special boy with CP again and give you a bit of an update on what the therapists at UCP-OC are currently working on to make sure he lives a Life Without Limits!   

On World CP Day:

Please join us as we recognize and celebrate the many families and children we serve with cerebral palsy! As United Cerebral Palsy of Orange County, World CP Day is a wonderful opportunity for us to share our appreciation for your support of our organization.  We are honored to serve children with any developmental disability while we pride ourselves on our expertise in treating children with Cerebral Palsy.

We hope this day will lead to many more opportunities to acknowledge and support our families throughout the community that have children with many different disabilities.

We know World CP Day was Wednesday, but here is how you can get involved still:

  1. Post your idea to change the world for people with cerebral palsy!The best ideas will be given to inventors, to turn dreams into reality at
  2. Like our Facebook page, follow us on Twitter and even YouTube Channel!
  3. Share this story with a friend or on your Facebook.

On Wyatt Review & Update:

Five years ago, we noticed our sweet 6 month-old son missing developmental milestones, and we began to search frantically for a cause. Our answer was clear, yet one we struggled to accept. Our son, Wyatt, was diagnosed with hypotonic cerebral palsy.

It is estimated that over 600,000 children and adults in the U.S. manifest one or more of the symptoms of CP. Currently 8,000 babies and infants are diagnosed with the condition each year.

Cerebral palsy (CP) is damage to the brain, occurring during fetal development; before, during or shortly following birth; or during infancy, that affects the overall muscular skeletal system. CP is characterized by an inability to fully control motor function, particularly muscle control and coordination.

For Wyatt this presents itself in very low muscle tone resulting in difficulties balancing and holding himself up; and in his speech, gross and fine motor skills.

Daily life is fatiguing for our son.

With his diagnosis looming over us we were worried. Would he be able to go to school and have the same opportunities as any child? My wife Jemi and I discovered the search for services is multifaceted and complex. After three years of Wyatt receiving therapy at many different therapy offices, we found UCP-OC and were able to breathe a sigh of relief. His care is no longer fragmented and Wyatt receives all the services he needs in one place.

United Cerebral Palsy of Orange County (UCP-OC) is a place with clinical and social support; a place that could answer our family’s questions; a place that feels like home. All therapies are play based to encourage a fun and motivating atmosphere.

Wyatt_TireswingPhysical Therapy: Wyatt receives physical therapy that is helping him to walk confidently on his own, go up and down steps and keep up with his peers. His physical therapist, Cori, has Wyatt ride swings for vestibular stimulation and to work on core strength. On the tire swing he strengthens his core and lower extremities by leaning over to pick up toys on the floor.

Occupational Therapy: OT helps Wyatt with his play and fine motor skills, such as holding a crayon to color and dealing with changing social environments so he can experience his peers to their fullest and to make friends.

Speech Therapy: Wyatt no longer receives speech and language therapy, however many children with CP have difficulties with their speech. Therapists work on strengthening speech articulators (tongue, lip and cheek muscles) as well as breath support to help facilitate speech. Many of the children practice their speech skills with the help of an iPad.

Today Wyatt attends school and participates in the classroom with his friends. He feels like everyone around him, and as a parent that is all we can ask for. We have new hopes and dreams for Wyatt, and we are seeing these become a reality with the help of UCP of Orange County. Wyatt has a bright future of more growth!


Jemileth & Mark Dipko

Proud Parents of Wyatt

Child of the Month: July

July 2013: Kiaan

KiaanJuly’s Child of the Month is a very special boy at UCP-OC for many reasons, and we wanted to celebrate him on his birthday month!

Kiaan was born on July 4th, and he just celebrated his third birthday! Kiaan is a micro preemie, being born 15 weeks early. The first 4 months of his life was spent in the NICU with his family by his side. With every day having new fears and uncertainties, Kiaan’s parents Neha and Jesse consider him their miracle baby.

Being born on a day with fireworks must play into his playful personality. Countless times his mother Neha has caught him “just being playful” teasing the dog at home. Luckily we haven’t experienced his cunning tricks during therapy yet! He couples his teasing with his heart-warming smile; which normally works pretty well for him. Despite all his hard work in the past 3 years he is one of the happiest children I have seen, although that is not what caught my eye; it is his deep concern for others that truly impresses me. Though he has gone through so much he is constantly concerned with the children around him and will try to comfort a distressed friend in his own special way.

At nine months-old, Kiaan’s parents began to see milestones being missed and brought him to United Cerebral Palsy of Orange County. One of the first services they used was Moira’s Let’s Grow class. Let’s Grow is a developmental play group for parents and their infants/toddlers (birth to 36 months). The class works on helping children reach their developmental milestones, foster growth and socialization skills, while educating parents. Kiaan also comes for occupational therapy, physical therapy and now speech therapy at UCP-OC.

Kiaan’s Occupational Therapist, Jane, incorporated sensory/tactile play with various textured toys as well as bean and rice bins to address Kiaan’s tactile defensiveness and textural aversions.  Feeding was a challenge for Kiaan and during sessions, Jane slowly introduced different food textures to encourage interaction with foods and eventually eating those foods without aversions.  Kiaan made good progress and at the age of 2 and a half, Kiaan was able to join his parents at the dinner table and eat table foods, just like his parents!

Currently, his speech therapists are working on introducing new sounds and words to his vocabulary. Neha is anxiously awaiting him to learn the coveted  word “mommy.” A word we hope he learns soon!

Family with KiaanNeha knows that Kiaan is working hard to meet developmental goals with the therapists at UCP-OC, giving their family a sense of normalcy.

“UCP-OC is our security blanket. The therapists jump at our concerns and make sure Kiaan is progressing like he should. Kiaan doesn’t know he is working, it is all play time with his friends to him. We very grateful and blessed that we can bring our son to UCP-OC. The journey is easier and doesn’t feel like we are on a roller coaster of emotions every day.” –Neha

A VERY Happy Third Birthday to our friend Kiaan! 

Neha and Jesse are one of our many grateful families that have given back to UCP-OC in many different ways. Neha has joined one of our guilds raising funds, spreading awareness and running the silent auction at the Life Without Limits Gala. We thank Neha & Jesse for their continued support and donations over the years in gratitude for the role UCP-OC has played in their lives.

If you would like to make a gift to support the services that are helping Kiaan and his family, please click here or contact Elizabeth Eckman at  for more information.

Written by: Elizabeth Eckman

Child of the Month: April 2013

April 2013: Spencer

Spencer 1  Spencer has been a constant smile at UCP-OC for almost 4 years now. He is a happy, friendly, fun-loving  child who loves to be around adults and peers.  Spencer has a special fascination with airplanes and tunnels; which is good for his yearly trips to France where his mother is from. In the home, Spencer is exposed to both French and English and is learning to communicate in a dual-language environment. Over the years he has been seen by different disciplines at UCP-OC, but today he is here solely for speech therapy.  Through his speech therapy we at UCP-OC have learned that he is a very social boy, even obtaining the nickname of “the mayor” (a small hint towards his gregarious personality 🙂 .)

 Spencer’s first day of speech therapy was filled with huge smiles and excitement. Initially, Spencer was babbling and making sounds, but not communicating any true words such as “ball” or “swing.”  Spencer had a difficult time receptively and expressively identifying objects, and the imitation of sounds and words was challenging for him. Those who communicated with him would have to do trial and error approaches in order to guess what he wanted as it was tough to understand exactly what Spencer wanted. When we fast forward to today, he opens his arms for his speech therapist and excitedly exclaims, “Miss Jeanne!” He not only communicates to his family in French, but he also will switch languages and communicate with peers in English. Spencer can now follow multiple step directions and will spontaneously tell stories about his life to his clinicians. He will ask questions, describe events, and express his emotions.

His mother Muriel is elated that through his speech therapy, he is now becoming a more vocal part of his family and his siblings are incorporating him in their play time. He is very happy to be included! His family works at home with breaking down words and color associations, including real life applications such as, “red is stop, green is go.” Most recently his real life application involves surfing. He has started saying to others, “I surf” which definitely adds to his cool factor. His father takes him surfing with him on his board, which I am sure is a great opportunity to work on his sea life words!

Spencer has become our ultimate communicator and has made tremendous improvements in his ability to understand, process, and use both French and English. We are so happy he is at UCP-OC – he is his own speech super star!Spencer 2Spencer 3

If you would like to make a gift to support the services that are helping Spencer and his family please click here or contact Elizabeth Wylie at for more information.

written by: Elizabeth Wylie

Child of the Month: March 2013

IMG_0800Melanie: March 2013

From my first interaction with Melanie I could see that she has a sense of adventure that cannot be rivaled…or stifled! Melanie’s curiosity brings her into many a unique situation, but it is her ingenuity & problem solving skills that really astound me. When she has her mind-set to do something she will think of any clever way to complete that task; she is very determined. Her determination presents itself in all aspects of her life even in her consideration and love for those around her. Melanie wants those around her to know she cares and many times she shows this in her helpfulness. She likes to help out with the chores around the house, and her mother turns these situations into opportunities for therapy in home.

Melanie has global developmental delays and hypotonia (low muscle tone) which presents itself in her gait. Like so many of our families, her care is in the fore-front of everything they do. This February, her father returned from his 4th tour, a very exciting moment for Melanie and her family. When her parents discovered her delays they knew that therapy was the way to narrow the deficit. With this need for continued access to medical care, specialists and therapy, her father re-enlisted into the army to ensure Melanie got the care she needed.

IMG_0804Darling Melanie receives physical therapy and speech therapy at UCP-OC working on progression of age-appropriate language and motor skills. Pati , SLPA, works on language skills.  She has done an astounding job facilitating 3-5 word sentences, descriptive words, transitioning from one activity to another and preparation to sit and attend in school. Beth, MPT, UCP-OC physical therapist, has been working on incorporating playtime into Melanie’s physical therapy sessions.  This is due to the extensive stretching that Melanie requires in order to improve her posture and alignment.  UCP-OC physical therapist Beth works on strengthening, stretching, balance, gait, body awareness and safety.

Melanie’s mother says that therapy is a family activity at home. Her brother John and sister Abigail push and encourage Melanie to meet them in the activities that they are doing. Melanie’s strong sense of purpose, spunk and determination help her get there!

If you would like to make a gift to support the services that are helping Melanie and her family please click here or contact Elizabeth Wylie at for more information

Written by: Elizabeth Wylie

Surprising Gifts

We have had some very fun and exciting gifts that have involved our children in the past few months that we wanted to share with everyone!

  1. Wyatt’s Birthday Party: For Wyatt’s 5th birthday in lieu of presents, his parents asked that guests bring in donations for UCP-OC and the Shea Center both of which are organizations that have made a difference in Wyatt’s life. Wyatt’s birthday party was Angry Birds theme, and his mother designed a box for the donations to be placed in. When Wyatt presented the gifts to UCP-OC he said, ““I want to share my birthday presents to help other kids like you…[then corrected himself and said] like me.” Is your heart melting? Ours definitely are! 
  2. Wedding: This past September we celebrated the marriage of one of our children’s parents. They very humbly told their guests that they were not in need of presents, but that UCP-OC and CHOC have played a vital role in their child’s life. Similarly to Wyatt, they requested that their guests in lieu of presents make a donation to UCP-OC. This has spread the word about UCP-OC and how it is impacting lives throughout Orange County. We were so honored to receive these generous gifts.
  3. Citizens Business Bank Golf Tournament: Abby welcomed a visit from Citizens Business Bank today with a donation of $5,000 from their golf tournament benefitting UCP-OC and other OC charities.–Abby’s mother is alsostarting a UCP-OC Parent Committee to assist with planning for our Gala in May. If you would like more information on the committee please contact Elizabeth Wylie
    Pictured: UCP-OC CEO Cathleen Collins, Arthur Bergmann and Abby


  4. Family Gifts: Liam and Gianna had a few gifts to deliver to UCP-OC from family friends and then a matching gift from their grandparents! Thank you Liam, Gianna, and your family for supporting and believing in UCP-OC. If you would like to read Liam’s Child of the Month post please click here.

Child of the Month | July 2012


Savi loves to pop bubbles. With each bubble she pops comes a round of applause from the gleeful Savi.

Savi Costa is a 22 month-old little girl with an infectious smile, loving spirit and has a fascination with the beads Miss Beth puts in front of her to grab. She loves to read. While her mother is reading to her, she pretends she is reading out loud right along with mom.

Savi was born with Down syndrome, and has received Early Intervention services from UCP-OC since she was 2 months old. She receives physical, occupational and speech therapy at UCP-OC and she loves her time with Beth, Christine and Ria. Speech therapy works to expand her vocabulary and develop expressive language to assist her in communicating. For occupational therapy, Ria works with her fine motor skills and eating. Recently, she began using a sippy cup on her own!

In her current physical therapy sessions she works on putting her weight on her legs. In February 2012, she was fitted with orthotics through United Way’s funding.  Before receiving these orthotics, she could not bear weight on her feet; now, when wearing her orthotics, she stands nicely with hands held and has begun taking 3-5 steps forward with minimal assistance.  The orthotics also decrease knee hyperextension. 

 Her parents are extremely grateful for her services and the orthotics, as they believe this intervention has made such a significant improvement in her life. One of UCP-OC’s next goal for Savi is to have her stand with letting go to whatever is holding her up. We know she can do it!


If you would like to make a gift to support the services that are helping Savi and her family please click here or contact Elizabeth Wylie at for more information.

Kristy’s Video Debut

Recently we shared a video on our Facebook page (  that features on of our talented therapists in her dancing debut! Kristy wanted to make sure that NO ONE missed our fundraising sign in our lobby.

We had so many parents tell us how much they enjoyed the video and got a good laugh from it, that we felt in needed to be shared here!

More UCP-OC Info:

We have 9 days left to reach our fundraising goal!  To help us reach our goal the OM Foundation has stepped forward with a challenge to match every gift dollar for dollar, until June 30th We know that with you and the OM Foundation we can reach our goal!

You give. They thrive. Together, we can make a Life Without Limits!