Austin is six years old and like many children his age, he is preparing for first grade. However, before his first day there is a great deal of planning for him, his family and the school. In 2002 Austin came to Heartspring with many developmental concerns and in the summer of 2004 was diagnosed with Pervasive Developmental Disorder. With time and intensive therapy through Heartspring Pediatric Services, Austin has greatly improved and advanced. Eating has been a focus in therapy for him and he will have special needs in the lunchroom as he tackles his feeding issues. Austin never went through the typical stages of eating, even from infancy. He couldn’t eat the regular things kids eat, but now with time and patience Austin can even eat pizza. Austin also lacked the sensory skills to hold and write with a pencil or dress himself, but now he can do both thanks to hard work and support from Heartspring therapists and his family. He had delays in gross motor skills, exhibited poor endurance and lacked overall strength, but now he can run, jump and use his motor skills better than ever before. Even though Austin has improved there continues to be different needs for him, especially when compared to his peers.
Austin’s parents, Kiffany and Terry, find themselves preparing Austin with positive comments such as, “school starts in just a few weeks, it’s going to be exciting” and “school starts soon and you’ll be able to see your friends”. Kiffany has already had a meeting with the teacher, the paraeducator who will be helping Austin and a meeting with the lunchroom staff to make sure everyone is aware of what he needs. Kiffany has taken Austin to see his classroom, the restrooms and visited the lunchroom. These steps are all important to remind Austin of where he’ll be spending his school days. Kiffany knows she’ll have to take him again before the school year starts just to reinforce his knowledge and relieve any anxiety he may have.
Asking Kiffany about her greatest concerns for Austin in school she said, “I’ve always been a worrier and knowing what’s ahead of Austin every time he starts a new school year, so I worry, I’m nervous, excited, and scared all at the same time thinking about what this year will bring.” Kiffany knows Austin needs to have a positive experience so that he will want to return to school each year. “Every year is a new beginning,” she said.
Austin has made tremendous strides since first coming to Heartspring, but for Austin to continue to improve it takes his therapists, the school system, the teacher, the paraeducators and of course, the support and encouragement of his parents to make it all happen.