Walking around or raising a hand are second-nature to many toddlers. But Wheeler Alcala's son, Gabriel, can barely sit upright.

"Gabriel was born prematurely. He was born at 29 weeks," she explained. "It was a scary time, and he was in the NICU for six weeks."

Gabriel was born with the condition periventricular leukomalacia. Part of his brain was damaged at birth.

"We knew that that would cause some difficulties for him, and that he would have some special needs," Wheeler said. It meant a lifetime of therapy for her little boy.

Well, therapy - or play?

It's easy to confuse the two in the colorful playground, known as TeletonUSA Children's Rehabilitation Institute, or CRITUSA.

"When you walk through and see every detail that they took to, not only make sure the children are receiving the care they need, but there is so much happiness in this place," said Wheeler.

CRITUSA is a physical and psychological healing center in San Antonio. Kevin Schoenberger, the center's director, says a day here is more like a recess than a day of therapy for the kids - but is just as effective.

"You're looking at general tasks and trying to make them playful," he explained. "We had a kid ride a tricycle for the first time, and we had a dad in tears."

There are toys, along with state-of-the-art equipment, like a heated pool and e-stimulation. A locomat, or a robot that teaches people how to walk, is one of the most useful pieces of technology here. However, there are only a handful in the country, and even less in Texas.

But these unique resources are not the only reason CRITUSA stands out.

"It really is a family taking care of us," said Wheeler. "For the seconds longer every single day that he's sitting independently on his own, gives me so much hope."