Although the pregnancy was uneventful, Ben* had difficulty reaching milestones as a toddler. He was often sick with ear infections and upper respiratory infections. We knew the impact these illnesses had on his ability to meet milestones for walking and talking, and I was confident I could address his needs based on my education and experience as a special education teacher.
When he wasn’t talking at age two, we reached out for help from the Northwest AEA. They provided support and strategies to help our son reach age appropriate developmental milestones by age three! It was a success and we were anticipating smooth sailing from that point.
Unfortunately, that was not the case as he started having panic attacks (choking sensation, low frustration level, rapid breathing, blotchy skin) during the middle of his kindergarten year. Once again, the AEA personal at our elementary school were of quick assistance and support for the teachers, staff, and us as parents. With their guidance, supports and appropriate instruction were implemented at school. They have also helped us find supports in the community and surrounding area.
The following services and support have been provided since Ben was two years old:
• Individual Family Service Plan with early childhood special education consultant
• Academic and Behavior intervention support and instruction for teachers
• Psychological assessments for reading and writing disabilities
• Speech Services within the school
• After-school Stuttering Clinic for cluttering, stuttering, and word retrieval issues
• Occupational Therapist for fine motor and sensory processing issues
• Outside evaluation by the Kansas City Center for Anxiety Treatment
• School consultation with Behavioral Psychologist from Boys’ Town in Omaha
Our son is now in 4th grade; we still encounter challenges and we foresee these challenges to continually evolve based on his diagnoses. It would be devastating if the supports provided by the AEA were not a possibility. We do not know how we would have been able to navigate the past five years and have a child who is successful in the educational setting without their support, education, and influence.
In closing, I would like to impress upon you the importance the AEA serves in our community and the future. The children that receive services from the AEA are from all kinds of families, different income levels, different ethnic backgrounds, and different experiences, but they all receive the same knowledgeable expertise from the AEA. Not all school districts can provide these necessary educational components due to the size of their district or experience of their teachers. The AEA helps to level the playing field by meeting the needs of districts, despite their size or location of the school, and their students.
Sioux City, Iowa
* Name was changed to maintain confidentiality.