Journey of a Mom of two amazing children on the spectrum
Friday, 20 December 2013
A Blessing to Our Family- Cisco Center
I have mentioned Cisco Center before, both of the boys have been going there since last April, Nate more so than Jack.I have talked about how wonderful it is to send them to a place where they are accepted and understood.But I don’t think I have done the staff justice.And unless you have a child with special needs, I’m not sure that at first or even second glance, you would appreciate the small things that make this center extraordinary.
I will try to explain by telling you about the Christmas party they had for the kids today.From the perspective of how Nathan was treated.
It was just me and Nate who went today, Jack was in school, so it was nice to have some quality time.He was thrilled to be in the car with me, and then we pulled into the parking lot.We have this issue every time I take him to Cisco for a gathering, he thinks I am leaving and becomes hysterical.So we walk in the door and what does he do? He throws himself on the floor (note that he does not do this outside, he waits until he will be more comfortable ;-).A couple of people glance at us, but do they run over?Nope, they say “hi Nathan!”Because this is expected and they are good with it.
They scheduled a “craft” for the kiddos, but kept it incredibly simple, reindeer food, which helped minimize the meltdowns.The kids that did not have a parent there had a staff member one on one assisting them.There was quite a bit of screaming and resistance, but not one of the staff appeared ruffled.At all.We then went upstairs for some carols and an eventual visit from sensory friendly Santa.Mats were strategically placed for kids to have a place to sit comfortably (read:sprawl out and roll around if necessary), and then here comes Carla (pure awesomeness), tossing different fidgets and objects that provide sensory input to the kids.Nate got a yellow, plastic bean bag thingy, which really kept him occupied in a way that I have seen few things do.The singing was mostly parents and staff, some kids had their hands over their ears, or cried, they were hugged, tickled, comforted.One thing was very apparent all morning- this staff LOVES these kids.
Sensory friendly Santa arrived, and as you can imagine, not everyone was happy to see him.This Santa, first of all, looked awesome (I have seen some pretty fakey Santa’s lately), he smiled and laughed as kids writhed and ran away from him, and each child received a handmade gift.Natey got his first airplane that was all his own.He was captivated.The staff took picture after picture of the kids with their parents, attempting to get a good shot, which is a challenge (to put it mildly).We got a few amazing pictures of Nathan today; he was just so happy all morning- I still have warm fuzzies thinking about it.
We went downstairs to eat, where almost half of the food was gluten and dairy free.Granted, Nate was dive bombing the non-gluten-free Chick Fil-A nuggets, and if I’m being honest, I let him have a little contraband today- hey it’s a party, and gluten really doesn’t have a huge effect on him; for him it’s dairy.Each child was given a gift by the staff.Something amazing happened when Nate opened his gift- first of all, he actually made a half-hearted effort to rip the paper, although I had to take each piece he ripped away so that he wouldn’t start with his origami paper shredding.That in and of itself was huge for him.But when the paper was off (it was a train set), I pointed to the box and said “look, Natey, a train, a choo choo”.He looked up at me and said “choo choo!”And he was EXCITED about it!!!!!OK, I’m tearing up writing this.The best part is that the staff was right there celebrating with us- they know how hard we work for every single syllable that comes out of Nate’s mouth.
And this staff- they are amazing.Cisco and Carla- well that’s a given- they have the biggest hearts you will ever encounter, and I really mean that.What I haven’t mentioned is that the rest of the staff is actually pretty young- it’s not what you would picture when you think of a special needs school.Most are in school; college, and even a few in high school.They are required to volunteer at the center for a period before they are hired as employees.And they are not choosing an easy job!What’s more- they are so good with these kids.They have incredible enthusiasm and energy, and what seems like endless patience.When Nathan started giving hugs and kisses, these were some of the first people he doled them out to.Carla and Cisco are not only providing amazing care to these kids, they are also passing on their knowledge to the next generation of teachers, therapists, and advocates.Carla actually said to me that she is amazed by the trust the parents put in them, and I was honestly shocked into silence.I have been very protective of my boys, especially Nate, since he can’t tell me if something is wrong.I had in home daycare until last April; I knew everything that was going on with him all day.It was hard to let go, and honestly, there is no one else that I would trust at this point.Having a place that is not only safe, but also incredibly enriching for my son to go to is such a blessing.
On our way out, I was telling one of the staff that Nathan made his speech pathologist and aid cry earlier this week.We were leaving his school Christmas party (this kid has so much fun!) and as always I was telling him to say bye bye.Which he never does.All of the sudden he gives this halfhearted wave and says bye bye, clear as day.Then he did it with his private OT, Miss Amanda, last night.So I thought I would try it again today- he said it maybe 3 times to different staff members- it was such a happy moment.He really is more engaged lately.I know that Cisco Center has a lot to do with that.