Isabelle “Izzy” first came to Heartspring in 2007 with educational challenges associated with autism and with severe behaviors, causing a danger to herself and others. Izzy would destroy property, be aggressive towards family and school staff by hitting, biting and pulling hair, and had inappropriate behaviors in the community, such as grabbing food off of other tables at restaurants, grabbing items in stores and destroying them, lying on the floor or ground and having meltdowns. Izzy was impatient and could not focus on a task for more than a few minutes at a time. She would not cooperate during routine doctor’s office visits and had to be physically restrained. Izzy would only eat certain foods, not including fruits and vegetables, and gained weight as a result of eating too much of the wrong things.
When Izzy first arrived at Heartspring, she would have on average of over 10,000 behaviors in one month. Now, at the age of 10, Izzy is making progress and her parents and all Heartspring staff can see it. “Izzy’s behaviors are decreasing in severity and with her increased self calming skills,” said Dr. Shelby Evans, Izzy’s psychologist. “We are seeing almost a 60 percent reduction in frequency.”
Heartspring medical staff saw Izzy struggle first hand with any medical procedure. They had difficulties even getting her blood pressure without Izzy becoming aggressive. “Izzy has come a long way,” said Lori Neel, R.N., medical office manger. “With programs in place, social stories and more frequent visits to the health office, Izzy can now tolerate medical exams with very little anxiety.” Izzy’s parents were recently on the Heartspring campus for a visit and she was scheduled for her annual dental exam. The dentist needed to pull three of Izzy’s baby teeth. “She did a great job even though she still doesn’t like needles, but who does,” said her dad, Paul.
Amanda Crisp, Izzy’s special education teacher works with Izzy everyday with IEP goals and life skills. “Izzy is learning to use a calendar to help her understand her schedule throughout the day,” she said. “She used to have meltdowns whenever anything changed or she didn’t want to do the task requested of her.” Izzy also helps her class with Heartspring’s recycling program and enjoys helping at the Humane Society, where she is learning more vocational skills. Implementing social stories has helped tremendously with Izzy’s behaviors. She is able to understand and accept changes more easily and can express feelings she may be experiencing in a more positive way.
Izzy is also learning to eat a variety of foods, including fruits and vegetables now. She even exercises with another student at Heartspring everyday after school. “Izzy helps prepare her ‘gym bag’ for the next day’s exercise routine,” said Trisha Gorrell, home coordinator for Izzy’s group home. “She walks everyday after school on a treadmill.” Trisha and the staff in G5 are working on IEP goals and self-help skills by incorporating community outings to help Izzy learn appropriate behaviors at restaurants, malls, the zoo, parks and grocery stores. She is working on recognizing street signs and G5 even has an “example” of a crosswalk in front of their home to help students’ learn to use the crosswalks in the community.
Izzy likes to color and this is her favorite choice at break time. She also enjoys princess movies and “Winnie the Pooh” movies. She likes doing arts and craft projects and participates in a class at City Arts in Wichita. “Izzy is learning to follow recipes for making healthy snacks using story boards and PECs (Picture Exchange Communication) pictures,” said Trisha. She attends religious classes on Wednesdays and goes to Mass on Sundays with Heartspring staff.
Izzy works with Kara Gibson, one of Heartspring’s occupational therapists, on fine motor and self care skills. “When Izzy first started at Heartspring, she would only make vertical and horizontal lines and scribble on the paper with every opportunity,” said Kara. “Now she is able to trace upper case letters of the alphabet and is working on copying letters of the alphabet. Izzy recognizes her name and writes it in large letters and it is becoming more legible.” Izzy is working with Heartspring staff to improve her self care skills. She needed assistance with dressing, tying her shoes, undressing, bathing, and drying her body. “Now Izzy completes the majority of these task with only supervision and verbal prompts,” said Kara. Kara knows Izzy will continue to make progress and enjoys working with her. “She is always interested in what new and fun things you want her to learn each day.”
“Izzy is a different person than the little girl that first arrived at Heartspring in December of 2007,” said her parents, Paul and Michelle. “The progress she has made at Heartspring is absolutely amazing! It has only been possible because of the expertise and skill of the staff there. We know that it hasn’t been easy, but their persistence and ability to adjust to her needs and their unfailing support are the only reasons Izzy has made the gains that she has since first arriving there. Heartspring is her second home and the staff and students there are her family. Izzy is learning the academic and life skills necessary to live the most successful life possible for her now and in the future. We feel truly blessed that Izzy is at Heartspring and you will always be family to us!”