The Loyola Connection

Two Loyola alumni connect through little girl with rare syndrome

By April Arnold  |  Photos courtesy of Megan O\'Boyle

Morgan McCloskey, '05, works with a child on speech-language therapy.

In February 2001, Megan Lynch O’Boyle, ’89, learned that her infant daughter, Shannon, had a rare genetic syndrome called Phelan-McDermid Syndrome. The syndrome is caused by a genetic malfunction highly related with autism that is associated with intellectual disabilities, sleep disorders, seizures, and several other medical complications.

At the time, Megan was told that Shannon was the 35th diagnosis in the world.

Little did Megan know she’d find the help she needed in fellow Greyhound alum, Morgan McCloskey, ’05.

“Before Morgan’s therapy, Shannon was not able to communicate at all. She rarely made eye contact,” O’Boyle said. “Since working with Morgan she’s put a foot in our world and began connecting with us more.”

McCloskey, a board certified behavior analyst and speech language pathologist, along with her team of therapists, began working with Shannon in October 2009.

“We focus on teaching Shannon to communicate using sign language, increasing her functional life skills like brushing her teeth, and expanding her interests and leisure activities like playing with her dog Brutus or games on the iPad” said McCloskey.

When McCloskey first began an in-home applied behavioral analysis (ABA) verbal behavior program with Shannon and her mother, she didn’t know about their shared Greyhound connection.

“I didn’t realize until I noticed Megan’s Loyola diploma in her home office,” said McCloskey.

While studying at Loyola, they both choose different paths.

O’Boyle majored in communications and interned in Loyola’s public relations office. McCloskey studied speech language pathology, joined a student organization for speech language pathology on campus, and volunteered with the Special Olympics and Best Buddies.

Their shared connection to Loyola only enforced their bond to provide treatment for Shannon.

“Megan is really dedicated to the program,” said McCloskey. “This commitment has had a huge impact on Shannon’s progress and has made Shannon’s day-to-day life more fulfilling and independent.”

During difficult times, O’Boyle draws back to her connections at Loyola.

“I made friendships at Loyola that will last a lifetime,” she said. “I’m very close with Fr. Tim Brown, S.J. He’s helped me through some very trying times. He’s been a rock I could reach out to.”

McCloskey is planning to continue to provide speech language therapy in much-needed areas of Dubai this fall.

“Loyola’s emphasis on service and reflection inspired me to pursue to the career path I am on and I am extremely grateful for that,” she said.

To learn more about Phelan-McDermid Syndrome visit pmsf.org.

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