SOESD / Learning Matters / Newsletter Archive / February 2009 / What Early Childhood Services Means to Us
What Early Childhood Services Means to Us
By Jessica Ries and Shane Gilbertson, Parents
As parents of a 4 year-old son with mild to moderate autism, we feel truly blessed to have Gilbert Creek as a part of our lives. Everyone there is very educated and professional with us as the parents and very loving and trustworthy with our son. We wish our son could be with them even more due to the help they have given all of us. We know that without Gilbert Creek in our lives we would be so distraught, as we were before his diagnosis. So many of his accomplishments in the last year are only because of their involvement with us. I don't see us ever breaking ties with Gilbert Creek even when he is too old to attend classes there; they are our extended family now.
Our son has learned to work with adults while they teach him the basic skills he needs to succeed in pre-school. He has learned to take part in activities with his peers and as a group, such as taking turns and working together. He now can go places in the community without meltdowns because we have all learned the techniques to make these outings more successful. It is now possible to sit with him and read a book, do a puzzle or just play. All of these things are only possible because of the professionals that have taken our lives into their hands and made life more fulfilling. Our understanding of our son's disability has become much more clear with the Gilbert Creek family in our lives. Without them I believe our son would have been lost in this world and our life as a family would not have been as successful.
Jessica gives back to ECS by serving as a parent representative to the Josephine County Early Intervention Council. She is involved in a local support group for parents of children with Autism Spectrum Disorder, and encourages other families to connect with each other.
By Tressi Albee, Parent
We were referred to early childhood services a little over a year ago after we had asked for some support from our family doctor for our (then) two year-old son, Taj. Taj's speech was developing differently than our other children's language developed and we were concerned and feeling quite mystified about his lack of speech. We were warmly received by a professional speech language pathologist and a child development specialist who were really patient and understanding to Taj throughout the testing phase. After our initial evaluation and consultation we were informed that Taj had childhood apraxia of speech. This was a bittersweet moment; we were relieved to finally have a name that we could research and a starting point to help Taj learn to speak. However, we were uncertain how pervasive Taj's apraxia would be and we had to come to terms with the best and the worst of all possibilities. We cannot thank the numerous speech pathologists, occupational therapists, and the other support people who held us through that fragile period of time as we came to terms what we were facing and came to understand how we could best help our son. I really appreciate the way the people at Early Childhood Services made themselves available to us for our numerous questions and concerns. They provided graduate level information in terms we could understand and they were always offering ideas about how we could help Taj learn to speak. We began to see our team as a power triad - Taj, the SLP and us, the parents. We attended therapy with Taj for the first year so that we could integrate the sounds and words Taj was working on in therapy into his daily life. The progress was slow, as is the nature of apraxia, but there was progress, and we were thrilled with every new syllable. After only three months of therapy, Taj made his first two syllable word, "mama". What sweet music it was to our ears!
For the last four months, Taj has been attending school at Gilbert Creek and we could not be happier about the care and learning he receives. The school is clean, well organized and the teachers are extraordinarily patient and compassionate. There is a steady rhythm to the school day and the teachers gently guide the children from one activity to the next seamlessly. Taj has gained countless social skills including his ability to be part of a group, ask for a turn with a toy, and he has even begun to really engage with the other children in pretend play. Taj really enjoys the motor room, the well-equipped playground and the sandbox. Taj has expanded his ability to communicate, follow rules and get his needs met in constructive ways and we credit this growth to his time at school. One priceless aspect of Taj's participation at Gilbert Creek School is the support the teachers and staff provide to us as parents. The wealth of collective experience of the staff is an invaluable resource for us as parents. Sometimes the simplest suggestion from the staff can entirely unlock a situation that seemed previously insurmountable. For all that we receive from Early Childhood Services we are most grateful.
The staff at Early Childhood Services are equally grateful for parents like Tressi and Robert, and Shane and Jessica, who embody what we hope for all children: parents who care deeply, seek answers and support for the challenges their children experience, and work in close partnership with staff to respond to those challenges.