Plainfield pediatric occupational therapist uses multimedia to empower kidsJanuary 11, 2016
PLAINFIELD – Not all dragons attack with breaths of fire. In fact, most don’t.
They attack with shyness, anaphylaxis, impaired motor skills, disrupted sensory processing, speech impediments and even big ears.
Just ask Joseph Bauer of Frankfort, the DJ who tours with Stacey Glorioso, a Plainfield-based pediatric occupational therapist, as part of her “dragon crew.” Glorioso also is the author of “Joshua’s Dragon,” the story of an autistic boy who beats his fear of loud noises by pretending the fear is a dragon he’s slayed.
Bauer, who recently finished his tour with Atlantic Records for his album “Illuminate,” according to a news release, said other kids used to make fun of his oversized ears.
But Bauer, the person who creates the sound effects for interactive readings of “Joshua’s Dragon” at school assemblies and then talks to kids about conquering his own dragon, has stood that fear on its head.
“My dad always told me, ‘Tell them you can hear better than they can,’ ” Bauer said. “And now I actually work in audio.”
It’s that kind of attitude that inspired Glorioso to write “Joshua’s Dragon.”
Inspired by young heroes
During her 16 years of practice, Glorioso said her young clients have constantly inspired her with their motivation and courage in the face of disabilities: the deaf child who learns to talk; the wheelchair-bound twins who learn to play basketball despite cerebral palsy.
Even Glorioso’s own son, Grant, 11, has a severe peanut allergy, which made him fearful of stepping away from Glorioso. But armed with knowledge of his condition, keen observation skills, common sense and an EpiPen, Grant has learned to face his dragon and live like other kids do.
But Glorioso didn’t write “Joshua’s Dragon” just for them, she said. She wrote it for everyone else, too.
“I always thought that with this push for inclusion, we just never got enough education on autism and cerebral palsy and Down syndrome,” Glorioso said. “And kids have to accept [kids with disabilities], not realizing the dragons these kids face each day.”
But the book is for more than showing elementary school children the difficulties kids with disabilities battle, such as navigating social situations and learning to walk, talk and eat. It’s to acknowledge them as heroes so even kids without disabilities can overcome their own Achilles heel.
“It’s really about recognizing that we are more similar than different,” Glorioso said.
Glorioso released “Joshua’s Dragon” in August and began touring in October. A tour stop is a 45-minute upbeat school assembly, she said. Glorioso estimates that her tours – so far – have reached 10,000 children in preschool through sixth grade.
Sean Smith, principal at Grande Park Elementary School in Plainfield, said Glorioso’s presentation is the most inspiring he’s seen in the four years he’s been with the school. The kids were thoroughly engaged, he said, and they bought books.
“She really inspired the kids to do some self-reflection and to think about their own selves,” Smith said. “She gave them that extra boost and motivation to continue to work hard, and the message that hard work does pay off.”
Glorioso’s dragon presentation is part recorded reading, part music and part video of other dragon slayers. One video presenter is Alyssa Gialamas of Naperville, who was born with arthrogryposis, a disorder that affects the use of joints and muscles, according to the Team USA website.
Gialamas was selected to represent Team USA in swimming at the London 2012 Paralympic Games, where she came in fifth place, the website stated. Gialamas was happy to make the video.
“I really liked the story, and I really liked the underlying theme,” said Gialamas, now 20 and a communications major at the University of Maryland. “Everyone has dragons, but in order to conquer them, you have to go through stuff.”
Despite her upbeat and uplifting exhortations, and despite the life lessons Glorioso brings home to her own children – who include Genna, 9, and Griffin, 4 – Glorioso admits providing occupation therapy to youth with disabilities is not easy.
There are losses. Children pass away. Others don’t progress. Glorioso said she has one 8-year-old client she is simply maintaining. That’s not bad, of course, but Glorioso wishes she could do more.
“It’s an emotionally difficult field, I think,” Glorioso said of pediatric occupational therapy. “But I stay in because the kids are amazing. And no matter how hard the issues are they’re going through, they are always happy. It’s a hard thing to explain. They are happy and they don’t know anything different. And they do what they’re supposed to do, no complaining; they just do it. They’ve always been my inspiration. They’re just amazing kids.”