Our son Aiden receives (Occupational Therapy, Physical Therapy and Speech Therapy) services from staff members who work at Heartland AEA.
My son Aiden has Down syndrome and I would be so lost without the AEA. They made me feel at ease and comforted me from the beginning. I didn’t know what to do and was so scared, they came to my home and talked with me about the different services they provided. They started working with Aiden immediately and that had a great impact on his life. His physical therapist worked with him every other week, teaching him things that come naturally to other children. I don’t think Aiden would’ve progressed as well as he did if the AEA didn’t work with him. These services are so important to a child with these needs because it gives them support. My family just moved to Iowa and we are grateful we have the resource and the support of the AEA. The AEA has provided services that have improved his quality life, not everyone can afford to pay for these services.
As the parent of a child, 5-year old Elijah, who is on the autism spectrum, I must share with you the attached video (see below) that is the beginning of the song I wrote this year to tell Elijah’s story. The story you see when you watch the video is told from the viewpoint of an advocate father, but is so much more than that.
It’s about the AEA team that started to see Elijah at 15 months, the Pocahontas Community School district that welcomed Elijah as its youngest member, September 2009 at 2 years 9 months, the commitment to excellence and overcoming odds as Elijah’s entire team of educators stood hand in hand to fight the uphill battle that is autism with his parents, family and friends. It’s the mutual sharing of joy and pain, but at the end of the day, it’s the story of Elijah…that despite budget cuts, reducing staff, and other obstacles thrown his way along with his disorder…the child that didn’t fall through the cracks.
I stand here today fully in support of the Area Education Agency and the job they do for early intervention services. I was recently quoted in the Pocahontas Record-Democrat, regarding an upcoming golf tournament fundraiser benefiting the AEA, as saying, “The AEA is a prime example of a wonderful organization, with hard-working people who are passionate about their work, which is severely underfunded. What results is children like Elijah are stuck on waiting lists for the resources that can help them learn to the best of their ability. We should never have a world where money is more important that giving children the opportunity to learn.”
Each day of my life I will not only fight for the quality of life for Elijah, but also for those who follow in his footsteps, those who aren’t the 1 in 88 like Elijah, but the one in 50, the one in so many. Please join us in fighting because “we won’t wait, tomorrow’s a future we can create. All it takes is someone like you…”
Our daughter, Brooklyn, has been receiving both speech and physical therapy services through the Heartland AEA for the past 1 ½ years and continues to receive now that she is 3 and attends the Jordan Creek Elementary Preschool.
Brooklyn clearly has both language and physical delays without an actual diagnosis so it has been extremely difficult to get the private help we need. The AEA has been a saving grace for our family as they have stepped in and have been able to work with our daughter in both of these areas. Without the expertise of the AEA, it would have been a costly expense for private sessions, which is a burden to families. This in turn would have limited our ability to provide necessary services for Brooklyn. In addition to the therapy services we received, they were a mentor for our family.
The appreciation of resources is hard to comprehend until you are a parent of a child with a disability. I cannot thank the AEA enough for what they have done for our daughter, Brooklyn. Preparing for elementary schooling are the most crucial years for a child, this is a service that would tremendously be missed if it were not available.
West Des Moines, IA
David Prose with mom, Marci
My husband, Adam Prose has lived in Ottumwa all his life and I, Marci Prose have lived in Ottumwa since our marriage about 10 years ago. We had our first child, Elaine about 9 years ago and our second child Izabella about 6 years ago. About two and a half years ago my husband and I had a life changing experience. Our third child, our first son entered into this world July 7, 2010 we named him David James. From the moment he was born our lives changed, not only was it the change of having a new child to care for but he went above and beyond in needing care. I knew from birth that there was something different about David. We exhausted possibilities of what could be wrong in his first year-two years of life. We visited doctor after doctor all in hopes that someone would find out what caused our son the trouble he was having. He wasn’t a normal happy baby that we had experienced with our two girls, he didn’t smile, he didn’t laugh, he screamed for hours and never seemed to be happy and content and started missing childhood milestones.
When we took our son into the doctor at the age of two we had a little light shed on the subject, the answer was autism. We had evaluations and heard that our son who was 25 months at the time was really at a 10 month level on some of the developmental marks. It wasn’t a lack of parenting or a lack of trying on our part. My husband works on copiers at Bailey’s in Ottumwa but I stay at home to be with the children to have a parent present in their early education. I knew that we had tried to teach David. Those were challenging times trying to figure out autism and what exactly it was. Neither my husband nor I had ever had experience with autism and frankly it scared us. We didn’t know where to start but there were people who did, the same people who evaluated our son and told us he had autistic tendencies. The therapist did not diagnosis our son autistic but at least had the answers of what road we needed to travel down. We started therapy in the fall and after just a few therapy sessions our son started changing. The stress of our family started declining. He started getting content and happy. David’s therapist come and spend about an hour with him every week and not only do they work with him on skills, they teach us how to teach him. I can’t even imagine what life would be like for us if they had not entered our son’s life.
I am inching closer to having three years in the battle on autism under my belt. The first two years I didn’t know what I was battling but I would have to say these last couple of months have been the easiest. Because of his therapists I not only have a clue as to what I’m fighting but they have equipped me with the tools I needed to fight this battle. I cannot imagine continuing my battle alone.
I hope that in the future as autism rates increase families will continue to get the support they need from the AEA programs such as Early Access. The last battle these parents need to be facing is how they are supposed to face this battle alone. I understand that budget cuts happen. As a society we are very concerned about government programs and cutting spending. Many people wouldn’t understand why the Early Access programs are important but being in the midst of the program I can tell you that they are. Statistics prove autism is only growing so to shrink programs aimed at helping these children and parents would be horrible. Autism has many faces and one child with autism will be completely different to another so there isn’t a single “instruction manual” to use we can’t just expect these parents that will have children diagnosed to understand a spectrum disorder. That’s the value of these therapist, they have seen one on one the different faces of autism and can understand the intricacies that even us parents can’t see!
Our son, Alex, is in third grade at Walnut Hills Elementary School. At the present time, he receives Occupational Therapy and Speech Therapy services from staff members who work for Heartland AEA.
Alex has worked with AEA his entire life. His services began around 8 months old when he wasn’t reaching normal developmental milestones. The AEA Early Access therapists worked with Alex at our home each week, helping him develop his gross and fine motor skills and his cognitive abilities. As he became a toddler, they added on speech therapy and sign language skills to him with communicating and get him prepared for school.
When Alex entered preschool, his AEA therapists worked with him at school and continue to do so today. They work as a team with his teachers on a regular basis to help him with his everyday tasks, motor skills and school work. This customized school experience has been priceless for our son. Alex has struggled both physically and cognitively his entire life with no formal medical diagnosis as to why. Without AEA’s early intervention, and belief in his abilities to learn and develop at his own pace, we don’t believe he would be as far along now as he is. Furthermore, the AEA services provided to him are something he would not necessarily be entitled to outside of school without a specific medical diagnosis. They have been an integral and necessary part of Alex’s development and school experience and he continues to improve each and every year.
AEA provides irreplaceable services to children like our son who have an unconventional way of learning. They provide the extraordinary help these kids need to reach their potential and to have a fair and productive public school experience and beyond.
Todd, Lori and Alex Noah
Jennifer Schulte shares her family’s experience in using the services of the AEA. As soon as she brought her newborn twins home from the hospital, she heard from the AEA. Later, she needed the AEA’s help for her children’s development. Her third child also needed some assistance. Her older son has improved to where he no longer needs an IEP thanks to the early intervention work of his AEA team. Watch the video here.
Our son, Aedyn, receives services through the Southeast Polk School District. He receives physical therapy, occupational therapy (including feeding assistance), assistance with communication and assistance with cognitive delays from staff members who work at Heartland AEA.
Aedyn was diagnosed prenatally with a rare chromosome imbalance called Emanuel Syndrome. This diagnosis carries with it global developmental delays and a large variety of medical issues. Aedyn is currently 22 months old. We are fortunate to be able to get services for Aedyn at a very early age due to his diagnosis, and we know that this has helped him make significant progress. We know that life will always be very challenging for Aedyn, but we are provided comfort by the wonderful resources that he has through Heartland AEA and are thrilled to be able to see the progress he makes in each area, allowing him a chance to reach his full potential. The therapists and teachers who have worked with Aedyn are dedicated to his care and progress. We have been so blessed by each of them and the resources that are provided to help meet the many challenges a child with significant disabilities encounters. As parents of a child with disabilities, our journey is made a little bit more manageable because of the skill, competence and support of his Heartland AEA team. We can’t imagine this journey without them.
Jason, Cindy and Aedyn Pommrehn
Pleasant Hill, IA