Hannah & Ethan's Story
The birth of a baby can and should be an exciting event for a family. But sometimes it is the beginning of a frightening journey into the realm of doctors, specialists and little known disorders. For over 40 years, our Early Intervention program has provided support, counseling and therapy to the special babies of these new mothers and fathers. Early Intervention helps families move from hopelessness and depression when a parent first knows something just isn’t “right,” to the joy of seeing small steps and achievements never thought possible. Will my child ever walk? Will he eat enough to grow? Will she talk? These are scary questions for a parent of a child who has special needs.
Two families from Northern Rhode Island recently got together to share their stories of hope and accomplishment. Both families had a child born prematurely, and diagnosed with periventricular leukomalacia. This is a rare condition where there is damage to the brain, near the ventricles, and often can result in difficulty controlling muscles, and with intellectual or learning difficulties. Sitting, walking and talking, and even eating are often big challenges. Hannah, now 15 and thriving as an honor student in her high school, is planning to go to college. And Ethan, 20 months, is just learning to sit on his own, trying to eat enough to grow and to communicate with those around him.
“I had to get help getting on the bus,” said Hannah, reflecting on her experience as a young child. Hannah went on to take tap and ballet and is active in local theatre. “She wouldn’t have gotten to where she is today without EI,” her mother Kathy noted.
Studies have repeatedly shown that Early Intervention works. The sooner families get information, help and support, the better the potential for development in the earliest, formative years. If an infant or toddler cannot take in enough healthy foods to grow, development can be seriously compromised. So therapists, such as Ethan and Hannah’s Occupational therapist, now closely monitor feeding, intake and growth, to insure a child‘s brain and muscles have the protein and vitamins essential to learning and development.
These supports make a huge difference for young children and their families. “The EI staff was so helpful,” said Erin, noting her son Ethan’s progress. “I wouldn’t have been able to do this by myself.”