Skyler makes strides thanks to staff of specialists

In many ways, Skyler is an ordinary little boy – thanks to his extraordinary care team at Fairview.

Skyler likes to run on his grandparents’ farm, chase the family dog and feed the horses in the barn—all of which he can do after receiving physical and occupational therapy at Fairview Northland Medical Center, which helped him overcome many unique physical and developmental challenges.

Skyler was born with Klippel-Feil syndrome, a rare congenital defect that affects the development of cervical vertebrae and other areas of the muscular and skeletal structure. Since birth, Skyler has experienced decreased motion of his neck, arms and legs in addition to overall speech and cognitive delays. As an 18-month-old, “He could sit, but he could not stand, walk or crawl,” says Jay Gunderson, Skyler’s grandfather.

Skyler’s grandparents (with whom he lives) turned to a team of specialists at Fairview Pediatric Rehabilitation at Fairview Northland for support. “They really helped us know how to help him,” says Beth.

Skyler uses speech therapy services at the rehabilitation center, as well as physical and occupational therapy services to help develop eating and speaking skills. He is also receiving assistance to develop fine motor skills in his hands and locomotion skills, including crawling, standing and running.

Despite the challenges Klippel-Feil syndrome present to Skyler every day, he is a bundle of joy to everyone at the rehabilitation center.

“If you ever met Skyler, you will love him,” says Amanda Tschida-Schirmers, occupational therapist. “The second we come out to get him, he is leading the way to the treatment room—you can’t help but look forward to his visits. When he first came in, he could hardly ever pick up a snack because he could not use his thumbs, but his new thumb splints help him to wrap his thumbs around any object he holds onto.”

Several other specialists from Fairview Northland Medical Center enjoy working with Skyler, including his physical therapist, Kim De Mars. “I can’t tell you what it is (like) to be there for some of the first steps and some of the first words,” says Kim. “The look in their eye when you can see he gets it…”

Skyler’s family sees every day that he “gets it, too.” When his family came to Fairview Pediatric Rehabilitation services, they were not sure if Skyler would ever walk. Now, his grandparents have to tell him to slow down.

“We’ve got to chase him all over the farm—he’s chasing the dog, the cat. He loves to help out in the barn with the horses, which means feeding them and giving them nightly hugs,” says Jay. ”I want to say ‘thanks’ to Fairview for taking care of him and doing the work they’ve done for him. It is wonderful.”


In 2013, the specialists at Fairview Pediatric Rehabilitation helped more than 2,000 pediatric patients like Skyler live fuller, richer—and more active—lives. Gifts to Fairview Foundation make it possible for those families to receive exceptional, life-changing pediatric care.  Donations of all sizes to Fairview programs are greatly appreciated.  To learn more about how your giving counts, visit 

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