Watching kids smiling and playing always warms the heart, but when your child has battled multiple health issues throughout their life, these amazing little moments take on a whole new meaning. 8-Year-old Ryan Senneff has Down Syndrome and has been hospitalized for a multitude of health issues over the years. Doctors warned his parents of all the things he’d never do, and the limitations that his health issues would bring. For Ryan’s parents, Maura and Jack, these supposed limitations just weren’t accurate.
“We had incredible early intervention therapists with us from day one, who are like part of the family. That works well for a lot of kids,” Maura Senneff told The Dad. “We doubled and tripled the amount of therapy. Ryan needed a new approach. Sometimes you have to change gears, change lanes, or get on a new train.”
The road hasn’t been easy, but with his parents’ dedication and his own incredible perseverance, Ryan has left all of his supposed limitations in the dust. Ryan was never told that he couldn’t, or that he wouldn’t – if a professional claimed something was impossible, Ryan’s parents found a different professional. Ryan’s parents knew that he was capable of so much more than the doctors seemed to think. Maura told The Dad how important it was to operate within a “no limits” mindset. She explained, “We all treat Ryan just like our two other kids (or any other kid). High expectations. A diagnosis or chronic illness often means you are put in a box with limits. It’s 2020– Time to set new outcomes.”
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Things I never thought I’d see Ryan do: Bike UP a mountain. (Video 2) The ol’ flop and drop (video 1) used to last forever. It was annihilating. We knew he could be independent and do things himself, but also a key life skill is asking for help/ peers to play, etc, 3 years ago- Ryan was so sick w pneumonia he used to lay on the floor in library at school. No one told me. They “thought it was Down syndrome.” He did not have language to say “I don’t feel well.” Now he asks for help and we couldn’t be more thrilled he can advocated for himself. Brought in some PhD’s to turn around health and intense language acquisition (applied verbal analysis). Also kicked a pretty severe stutter. Teaching how to ask for help and to power through when things are tough have been pivotal to Ryan’s development. Now he has a self assessment check list and is rewarded for doing his best work. Improving trajectory for next generation = Any behavior or skill can be worked on and improved. Brain is malleable, not fixed. #nolimits PS – Shout out to all the siblings of kids with special needs. Their patience and endless love are inspiring Sorry for the repost from stories!
In a recent video that Maura posted to her Instagram, Ryan’s progress is evident. Not only is he playing and goofing around just like any other kid his age, but he takes on a teacher role and helps his dad perfect his skipping skills. Ryan provides some constructive criticism and demonstrates the proper form. After a lot of practice, Jack gets Ryan’s stamp of approval. “Dad,” Ryan says slapping both hands on his dad’s shoulders, “I am so proud of you”.
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Nothing better than watching Jack skip and do jumping jacks with Ryan, and then Ryan critiquing his form🤣 2nd video Ryan tells Jack he’s going to cry bc he is so proud of Jack for skipping😭❤️ This doesn’t look like much- We dropped the ball on mastering some bilateral coordination skills years ago bc the plateaus were endless while triaging acute illnesses. Back to the drawing board- what we were doing was not working. So Ryan’s docs focused on coordination between body & brain + vision for motor planning the past few weeks. 2 weeks later he got the hang of a bunch of skills & mastered out of all his vision exercises. These bilateral skills using left & right sides of brain will help with writing, all sports & ball skills, tying shoes, confidence, social skills, language etc Even late, it’s still progress. Sometimes the little victories are the biggest. I had no idea in the Army jumping jacks = side straddle hops 🤷♀️ #nevergiveup #moreworktodo #neuroplasticity #nolimits . #specialneeds #downsyndrome
Jack and Ryan’s connection is evident, and according to Maura, it’s a precious bond that this star-athlete dad shares with all of his children. “Jack inspires me every day – he is present with our kids,” Maura told The Dad. “He tells all our kids every night, ‘I’m proud to be your dad.’” Well, the feeling is mutual – Ryan seems pretty dang proud to be Jack’s son.
For more heartwarming videos, check out Maura’s Instagram.