Northern Lehigh Student To “Graduate” from Pediatric Therapy at Good Shepherd after 10 Years

Like most high school students, Julian Gonzalez’s senior year at Northern Lehigh High School has been busy – attending football and basketball games, studying and participating in school activities, such as choir.  And like most, he’s looking forward, with both happiness and some trepidation, to turning 18 and facing the changes that come with adulthood. But for Julian, turning 18 will be even more significant than for most young adults.

The Slatington resident has been an outpatient in Good Shepherd Rehabilitation Network’s pediatric program since suffering a traumatic brain injury when he was hit by a car at the age of 8. He has spent thousands of hours working with physical, speech and occupational therapists to overcome the effects of the accident, attending therapy sessions as often as three or four days a week.

When he turns 18 this month, he will “graduate” from the pediatric program. While he will transition to therapy as an adult, he will be leaving behind the relationships he and his mother, Elizabeth, have developed with the pediatric staff over the past 10 years.  Julian’s therapists say that he faces all of life’s challenges with an amazing attitude.

One of those therapists is Carol Knauss, PTA, who worked with Julian for most of his 10 years. “Julian has had many obstacles to overcome and challenges ahead of him,” says Carol.  “He has always strived to work hard, do his best, so often with a smile on his face, a song and always a compliment for others. He encourages other patients to succeed, whether he knows them or not.”

“I have enjoyed working with Julian and watching his progress,” says Erin Martinez, DPT, PCS, CBIS, pediatric clinical specialist. “Each week, Julian has worked hard to beat his previous week's record in therapy. He doesn't let his disability affect his mood and always comes to therapy with a positive attitude and a sense of humor. He has become an integral part of the pediatrics department and he will be greatly missed!”

Julian’s therapists have been working in recent months to help him acquire skills to gain independence, from being able to make a sandwich to keeping track of his own schedule using an app on his iPad.
Elizabeth Gonzalez says that her son has made significant progress over the years, and she’s appreciative of the staff’s dedication. When she first brought her son home from the hospital after his accident, Julian was unable to communicate and had little mobility. Today, he speaks with confidence, and though he uses a wheelchair to get around, he is an active young man who loves to listen to music, from hip hop to oldies; play baseball for the Miracle League; attend summer camp where he swims, fishes and goes horseback riding; play video games; and write stories on his iPad.

“Julian’s journey does not end here,” says Carol. “He is now a young man with many more life experiences, challenges and successes ahead of him. We wish him and his wonderful family all the best as he enters this new chapter in his life.”