The telephone call came late one afternoon. A very distraught mother had just been given the news that everything was pointing toward a diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder for her son.
Jerry (not his real name) was three years old and the only child born of a mature couple who had given up any hope of ever having a child. He was their miracle baby and now they had to face the daunting prospect of raising a child with a disability about which they had only heard terrible things.
Mom was given information and encouragement during the phone call and invited to visit The Children's Development Center to learn more about the services it provides.
Mom arrived for her appointment and was introduced to a case manager who shared information about services available at The Children's Development Center as well as other services for which Jerry might be eligible, such as Social Security and Medicaid.
The transformation in mom's attitude began that day. She entered the agency a very fearful, concerned, tearful parent and left with a renewed sense of hope and optimism about her son's future.
Jerry entered the preschool program within a week of that meeting. He began receiving speech and occupational therapies. He remained in the preschool and continued to receive therapies for nearly three years. He grew physically and developmentally as well.
His speech began to improve. He learned to write his name, to participate in play activities with his peers and to control his sometimes violent outbursts. He began to speak to his parents. He was an active participant in the family's church activities. He was willing to try new and different foods. Mom and dad were extremely happy with his progress.
Jerry's progress continued and he was ready to make the transition from preschool to kindergarten. His parents were very nervous about leaving what they perceived as a safe, loving environment and making the move to the public school and new systems and people. The staff of The Children's Development Center worked with Jerry and his family to help prepare them for the change and, armed with a renewed sense of confidence in their abilities, the family successfully made the transition from preschool to public school.
Jerry now is in first grade in the Williamsport Area School District, playing Little League Challenger Division baseball, is very active in the family's church and doing extremely well. More than that, the family is happy, healthy, and sharing in the joys of raising their treasured child. The center is happy to have played a part in the family's story.
(Note: Jerry's story is just one of thousands of individuals helped by Y youth, senior, and childcare programs receiving United Way support. To make a contribution to this year's campaign, contact the Lycoming County United Way office, 323-9448, or pledge online at lcuw.org.)