Real Life with Ryan: A Team Therapy Approach That Works

Quick Overview

The presentation titled “Real Life with Ryan: A Team Therapy Approach That Works” was given at the 2018 FAST Educational Summit. The presentation featured a team of therapists who have been working with Ryan, a child with Angelman Syndrome, and his family. The therapists discussed their approach to therapy, which focuses on celebrating small victories and using a combination of occupational, speech, and physical therapy techniques. They emphasized the importance of finding a therapy team that understands and supports the goals of the child and their family. The therapists also shared videos and examples of Ryan’s progress in areas such as walking, communication, and eating. The presentation concluded with a Q&A session where attendees asked questions about specific therapy techniques.


Welcome to the last session of the 2018 FAST Gala Educational Summit. In this session, we will be discussing “Real Life with Ryan,” a team therapy approach that has proven to be successful. We are fortunate to have the team that works with Ryan, the son of Elizabeth and Ben O’Connor, here to share their experiences. The team consists of Julie Conway, an occupational therapist, Jan Marsden-Johnson, a speech therapist, and Beth Anne Solem, a physical therapist. Let’s dive into their presentation.

The Story of Ryan and His Family

Ryan was diagnosed with Angelman Syndrome at 18 months old. At that time, his parents were told that he would never walk or talk. However, with the help of his dedicated therapy team and his supportive family, Ryan has defied those expectations. He is now walking and well on his way to living an independent life. This presentation will focus on the team’s philosophy and the progress Ryan has made.

The Team Philosophy

The team believes that every day may not be a good day, but every day has its good moments. Instead of focusing on the overwhelming big things, they choose to celebrate the small victories. By focusing on the little things, they have seen significant progress in Ryan’s development. They emphasize the importance of celebrating every victory, no matter how small, as it makes life valuable.

Early Challenges and Progress

When Ryan first started therapy, he had difficulty with oral motor skills and communication. He would often cry during therapy sessions, making it a challenging experience for both him and his therapists. However, through consistent and targeted therapy, Ryan has made significant progress. He has learned to eat independently, communicate using signs and a talker device, and walk with stability.

Oral Motor Skills and Communication

The team worked extensively on Ryan’s oral motor skills, focusing on biting, chewing, and sucking. They used various techniques and tools to strengthen his mouth muscles and improve coordination. Ryan’s progress in this area has been remarkable, and he can now eat and communicate effectively. The team also emphasizes the importance of finding the right communication system for each child, as there is no one-size-fits-all approach.

Walking and Physical Development

Ryan’s physical development was a puzzle for the team initially. They set high expectations for him and worked on providing stability and balance during his therapy sessions. Through repetition and purposeful tasks, Ryan learned to walk and maintain his balance. The team also incorporated sensory integration techniques to help him stay organized and focused during therapy.

The Importance of Family and Teamwork

The O’Connor family plays a crucial role in Ryan’s progress. They are actively involved in his therapy sessions and provide support and encouragement. The team emphasizes the importance of open communication and collaboration between therapists, parents, and other professionals involved in the child’s care. They also highlight the significance of finding a therapy team that understands and supports the family’s goals for their child.


The team’s approach to therapy has been successful in helping Ryan achieve significant milestones. They emphasize the importance of celebrating every victory, no matter how small, and focusing on the little things that lead to big progress. They encourage parents to find a therapy team they trust and communicate openly with them. With the right support and dedication, children like Ryan can thrive and lead fulfilling lives.

Thank you for joining us for this presentation on “Real Life with Ryan.”

Talk details

  • Title: Real Life with Ryan. A Team Therapy Approach That Works
  • Author(s): Julie Conway, Jan Marsden-Johnson, Beth Anne Solem, Elizabeth and Ben O’Connor
  • Author(s)’ affiliation: None
  • Publication date: 2019-01-10
  • Collection: 2018 FAST Educational Summit