Hometown remedy inspires random act of kindness.
Prince's Bay speech therapist offers overseas evaluation for former Islander living in Italy.

Monday, February 15, 2010

By MAURA GRUNLUND
Staten Island Advance

STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. -- A Prince's Bay speech therapist, Felix M. DiPalma, extended his practice all the way to Italy by providing free advice via e-mail for Giacomo Castelmare, 2. Giacomo's mother, Danielle DeVito, grew up in Midland Beach and now lives in Lucca in the Tuscany region of Italy.

Ms. DeVito became concerned that her son was slow to speak and brought up the issue with her son's Italian pediatrician at his age-2 health check in August 2009. The doctor explained that in Italy early intervention wasn't available and Giacomo would have to wait at least another year, until he entered preschool, before he could be evaluated.

Knowing that she would be returning to Staten Island for the 2009 Christmas holidays, Ms. DeVito used the Internet to research speech therapists in our borough. "As soon as I came across Mr. Felix DiPalma's Web site and blog, I knew I may have found my answer," she wrote in an e-mail to the Advance.

She e-mailed a request to schedule an appointment in December and also expressed her concerns about Giacomo's speech, even including links to home videos. "I heard back from Mr. DiPalma himself almost immediately and I knew I had made a wise decision to contact him," Ms. DeVito wrote.

"Not only had he read over my entire e-mail and watched all my videos, and not only was he willing to meet with us face to face in December, but he made a point of fixing us a phone consultation right away so that I wouldn't worry myself to death in the following months waiting for my appointment in December."

DiPalma spoke to her by phone for about two hours and offered to e-mail her weekly tasks to work on with Giacomo. She would give him weekly updates via e-mail. The weekly e-mailing between mother and speech therapist when on through December. DiPalma insisted
that Giacomo's appointment would be free of charge but that she could donate money to a charity for unwed mothers.

"Giacomo and I arrived to the appointment with a bottle of olive oil made from the olive trees on our land in Italy and a homemade cheesecake from my sister who is a pastry chef," she wrote. "It was the very least I could do."

The evaluation indicated that Giacomo had no signs of serious underlying issues and his speech already had improved with the help of the e-mail assignments. The mother and speech therapist continue to e-mail weekly about tasks and progress.

"My story may not seem like much, but the stress that comes not only with living overseas, but also raising a child in a country that is so different when it comes to resources, I can honestly say that Mr. DiPalma helped me in a way that could never be repaid," she wrote.

"He had made a permanent mark on my heart and inspires me to also do random acts of kindness.