July Patient Spotlight: Niko!

Niko was born in Bulgaria, about 2 hours from the Black Sea.  He was immediately placed in the institution located in that region after birth.  So, for the next 3 years, Niko experienced severe neglect.  We started pursuing adoption at about the time Niko was born, and ended up picking him up and finalizing his adoption about 2 weeks after his third birthday.  Upon pickup, he was a 17lb 3 year old.  He could not walk, could not talk, did not eat anything but liquids, and was terrified of everything.

Tell us your child’s story.

Niko exhibited autistic behaviors (institutional autism) and had multiple medical problems (many due to his neglect and mistreatment in the orphanage).  He has been home 10 months (on July 2) and is now walking confidently, trusting of his family, has a willingness to experience new things, eating more and more solids every day, and uses ASL to communicate with us.  He is learning to trust us and his environment with each passing day.  Kids from orphanages, and kids with a trauma history, have built up so many barriers to survive. With each hug and kiss, we are slowly peeling his layers away, learning who the real Niko is underneath all the hardened exterior.

Why did you choose APT for therapy services?

I went to school with Meredith, and knew that she was one of the best occupational therapists in the area. We really hit the physical therapist jackpot with Amie, too!

What improvements have you seen in your child since they started therapy at APT?

Niko is now walking (with confidence), sitting up with strength, starting to try and jump, and doing so many other things physically that he had never had the opportunity to do in the orphanage.  He is also becoming much more brave with his mouth (when he got home, we couldn’t even touch his mouth without screaming), and is becoming much more confident with different environments and objects.  Meredith and Amie are the reasons that Niko had a successful beach vacation. Not only did he walk on the sand, but he played in it!  Niko has gained about 11lbs and 5 inches within the last 10 months since coming home and is now healthier and happier than ever.

What has been your brightest moment along the journey?

Our brightest moment has been seeing Niko take pride in his own accomplishments.  For 3 years, no one ever told him he was special, worthy, remarkable, or chosen.  No one ever told him that he was strong, and unbelievably brave.  Now, when he accomplishes something that was scary, new, and difficult, we see JOY in his eyes; a joy that he never had the opportunity to experience before.  Watching someone learn how to be proud of himself is a sight that we are very blessed to be able to witness.

What advice would you give other parents who face similar situations?

If you are an adoptive parent, or considering adoption, DO IT.  The financial struggles, the scary medical diagnoses, the overwhelming unknown, none of that compares to the immense joy that that child can bring you.  To ransom a child out of literal hell on earth is an amazing thing, and each of these children are worth it.  With the right support team behind you as parents, you can help your child accomplish more than they truly ever imagined was possible.  I can assure you that Niko never thought he would be as independent and strong as he is today, and we have to thank our team for helping us get him there.  He was once a boy with no hope. He is now a boy with endless possibilities!

Occupational Therapist, Meredith Doyle and Physical Therapist, Amie Caple see Niko at APT. We asked them to share a little about their journey with him.


How long have you been working with Niko and what improvements have you seen?


I have been working with Niko since September of 2016.  He came for an evaluation within 2 weeks of moving to the U.S.!  His family has been ‘on it’ with therapy from the very beginning.  The improvements I’ve seen are astronomical.  They are about 10% therapy related and 90% due to the secure and loving family Niko is now a part of.  To see before and after pictures of the child that I saw 2 weeks home, to the child he is now still nearly brings me to tears!  When he first came to me he was making limited eye contact, did not know how to walk, was not communicating,  was not eating solid food, did not know how to play, did not allow his teeth to be brushed, had a very flat affect, and physically looked to be about 1 year old (he was 3).


I have been working with Niko for 9 months now and the progress he has made is unlike any other child I have seen! His gross motor skills exploded within the first few months of our work together and have continued to improve from month to month! It has been amazing to be apart of his team and watch his world expand exponentially. He came to me just a few weeks after being adopted at 3yrs old with significant delays including overall weakness, inability to sit without propping himself using arms, and ability to crawl only. With the overwhelming love from his family and a bit of help from his OT and myself, Niko learned to stand up, walk, climb, and most recently, jump!

Describe a little about yours and Niko’s relationship.


My relationship with this client and family is very unique! Kristi and I have a mutual best friend from college and have known each other for several years!  She actually reached out to me while she was IN Bulgaria picking up Niko asking for OT, PT, and SLP recommendations for when he got home.  I of course recommended APT, never really thinking that he would get placed on my schedule, but my openings worked for the family and he was!   It was a totally God-ordained relationship and I feel incredibly blessed to be a part of Niko’s journey.


Initially, Niko did not do well with “hard” work in therapy and would stay in his own world of never ending doors (his favorite thing) with any activity that did not interest him. Over time, he started to engage more, look into my eyes more, show emotion more, smile more, and development into the sweetest little guy who likes to hold my face and stare at my mouth when I talk, furrows his brows with activities he doesn’t like, and who runs up to me with a grin when I meet him in the lobby. Niko is my first kiddo of the day on Monday’s, and he always helps me to start my week out with smiles and laughs!


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