Thank you for visiting Ellie's page!
Abrielle (“Ellie”) Steimer is a spunky, determined, bright 6-year-old who likes the color purple, horses, Tinker Bell, Minnie Mouse, and orange juice! We call her our sunshine girl because despite the struggles she faces every day, she has a huge smile and a contagious laugh!
Ellie was born in 2010 and had a “normal delivery” with some relatively minor medical issues (jaundice and a benign heart murmur). She lived a fun-filled baby life with her two older siblings until her parents noticed some delays starting around 8 months; but knowing every child develops differently, they tried not to worry too much. She started scooting around by 11 months and walked stiffly with a push-toy at 13 months. At 18 months she underwent eye corrective surgery due to her eyes crossing, and when that still didn’t seem to help her begin walking more steadily and more than 3 or 4 steps without falling, her parents contacted Early Childhood Intervention.
After a few months of speech, occupational, and physical therapy with Early Intervention, it was voiced that they thought that Ellie had cerebral palsy. We set up and had appointments with a physiatrist and neurologist, and she had an MRI. She was diagnosed with spastic diplegia cerebral palsy, and the cause of Ellie’s particular case is unknown. She was prescribed leg braces that helped tremendously. Ellie also was diagnosed with epilepsy and has had many seizures of different types throughout the past four years after her initial diagnosis. After suffering from several concussions, seizure medicine was prescribed and controls the drop seizure activity. She still has “absence seizures” occasionally that she should grow out of.
Ellie is now able to walk on her own with an unsteady gait, and we are looking into what type of braces will help her the best as she continues to fall regularly as the tight muscles in her legs do not flex like she wants them to! The increased tone and spasticity in her arms makes any fine motor task a challenge – such as coloring in the lines, cutting with scissors, puzzles, sticker books, writing, etc. She struggles with speech as well, as the process of forming ideas physically into words is difficult for her; but she can say 5 or 6 word phrases now after much work and effort, though the norm is usually 2-3. Due to the frustration that her limitations cause her many times, she can get loud and stubborn and has a hard time controlling those emotions. Thanks to technology, however, she is able to be challenged in some of the above tasks without the mental exhaustion of trying to control those fine motor movements by playing the tablet – and some of her favorites are Puzzingo and Monkey Preschool! She has little concept of safety and can easily run off in public places,although many times she does not have the endurance to walk longer distances. She does have a custom-made stroller to help when at the store or in places that require a lot of walking.
A service dog will help Ellie in the following ways:
Mobility Assistance - a bar will be mounted on the dog’s vest to provide her balance support and stability, thus also providing independence as she won't have to hold mommy's or daddy's hand as much! And those times when she does fall, she will have help to get back up. A tether will also be used to help her from running off or wandering. This again will help her slow down and provide some independence as she grows while maintaining some safety.
Seizure alert - while her seizures are mainly under control, she still has bad days with absence seizures. We recently tried weaning off the seizure medicine as she was seizure-free over a year, but it was not successful and she had two seizures off the med. A dog could provide alert of an oncoming seizure and emotional support during and after as well.
Behavior Modification - emotional support during a meltdown or frustration. When she is nervous or fighting during an appointment, the dog can sit close or even on top of her to soothe and calm. The dog could also help Ellie be more grounded in a group setting, which is right now almost impossible as she doesn’t sit still or focus well at all in that type of situation.
The goal is to give Ellie the best care and tools possible for her to be all she can be, and a dog can be a tremendous blessing and companion in her growth.
4 Paws for Ability is an Ohio-based nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization that trains service dogs for children with medical and developmental challenges. Service dogs provide support in such areas as emotional comfort, search and rescue, social experience, and boundary control. 4 Paws service dogs give children with challenges the freedom they crave, along with the safety they need. This organization is one-of-a-kind in that they work with children and partner with families for fundraising. Founder Karen Shirk says, “Through this fundraising partnership, children are not on waiting lists for years.” All purchases and donations go towards the selection and extensive training of the dog and all are tax deductible. The 4 Paws website at www.4pawsforability.org states, “A magic exists between children and dogs, a magic that can become a life-saving miracle.”
These dogs are not only companions, they are lifesavers and caregivers. It costs 4 Paws for Ability over $22,000 to raise and train a service dog. To enable them to help as many people as quickly as possible, 4 Paws allows each recipient family to fundraise the $15,000 to qualify for the dog. By utilizing this unique fundraising model, each family is able to receive a service dog within 18 months, as opposed to the five or fifteen years they would have to wait with other nonprofit service dog organizations. Help Ellie’s dream come true by making a tax-deductible donation to 4 Paws for Ability.
To make a donation, click Donate below or mail a check with Ellie’s name on the memo line to:
4 Paws for Ability
In Honor of Abrielle Steimer
253 Dayton Ave.
Xenia, OH 45385
A video made a few years ago for Cerebral Palsy Awareness Month shows a more detailed version of Ellie’s story - https://youtu.be/ik10z6of87s
You can follow Ellie's journey on her Facebook page!