Gabe Boylan

 Gabe Boylan has curly dark brown hair and a warm smile that matches her bubbly personality. Now an active 19-year-old, Gabe came to this country from Russia at 10 months old, weighing only 10 pounds.

It was clear to Tom and Ann Boylan of Hudson, Ohio, that their newly adopted daughter was malnourished and had developmental delays. Gabe had other problems as well. She soon had surgery to correct her right club foot and had a tumor removed from her left eye. At age 3, Gabe was diagnosed with autism and mental retardation. She attended early intervention and began applied behavior analysis (ABA) at age 6, which greatly enhanced her progress, says her mother.

Later, Gabe was diagnosed with kidney stones, kidney infections and diabetes insipidus. She underwent surgery to straighten her lower right leg and, in January 2012, a deformity on her left ankle was surgically corrected.

When Gabe was 12, she began having severe emotional and psychological behavioral challenges. With continued ABA therapy and pharmacological management, she now is thriving at school, home and in the community. “We are so lucky,” says Ann. “Gabe has overcome so much and continues to grow and learn new things every day.”

A student at the Lerner School at the Cleveland Clinic Center for Autism since 2005, Gabe eagerly greets visitors to the school with an enthusiastic smile. “We call her our ambassador,” says Center for Autism Director Aletta Sinoff, PhD. “She reflects the passion and dignity that embodies the mission of the Lerner School. Her daily determination and dedication to continue to learn and try new activities reminds us that she is a fighter.”

Gabe swims every week, bowls, ice skates in the winter and exercises at the YMCA and Curves Fitness Center. “I like to go to school,” says Gabe. “And I like to swim at Twinsburg Pool. And I got a blue bowling ball for Christmas.”

She also enjoys amusement parks and is a bit of a daredevil; at Cedar Point, her favorite rides are the Magnum and Blue Streak roller coasters, and at indoor water parks, she likes the biggest slides. She’s already excited about a trip to Disney World planned for her 21st birthday.

“Gabe has far exceeded all expectations regarding ability and behavior,” says Ann. “We pray that her courage, determination and zest for life will continue to assist her in throughout her lifetime.”