Hunter has changed a lot in the past 12 weeks. He’s sleeping through the night, he’s much less afraid of trying new foods and he is able to focus on tasks and conversations without getting too overwhelmed or distracted. But Angie, Hunter’s mom, is most excited about what she says is the biggest change in her son: he’s happier.
Hunter’s challenges make it more difficult for him to concentrate in a conversation, deal with a noisy environment or be around foods he doesn’t like. When faced with one of these challenges, Hunter would often get overwhelmed and have a hard time cooling down. Angie took Hunter to several different places for therapy, but they always left feeling frustrated and disappointed, until Angie’s friend suggested she look into ChildServe’s Neuromotor Intensives program. When they walked in to the colorful space for their first appointment, both Angie and Hunter noticed a clear difference.
“He warmed up to therapy here right away,” said Angie. “Every therapist we’ve seen here is just warm and friendly, and the environment is geared towards kids. That makes a huge difference for us. I never hear, ‘Mom, I don’t want to come.’”
Hunter participated in ChildServe’s Neuromotor Intensives program, a 12-week program that focuses on helping kids build skills faster and in a fun environment. He’s been working with therapists Christine Weiland and Ashley Jobe on tolerating new foods, self-regulating his emotions and focusing on tasks. But the most important thing his therapists do is make sure Hunter knows that he has a say in what he does in therapy.
“When we started here, Ashley asked me what I wanted out of this program and what kind of progress I wanted to see,” said Angie. “But then she turned and asked Hunter. The fact that she asked him made me so happy. The child is just as important in everything they do because if the child is thinking, ‘No, I don’t want to do this,’ nothing is going to happen.”
Asking Hunter what he wants to do has been especially useful in his feeding therapy. Christine says she makes sure Hunter knows that he can tell her when he’s at his limit for the day.
“It’s less overwhelming and scary for him that way,” said Christine. “He knows he can say ‘no thanks,’ or ‘that’s too much.’ That builds his confidence and makes him comfortable so he wants to participate more.”
Since the beginning, Christine and Ashley have made sure therapy feels like fun. Hunter gets to run through an obstacle course, play with his food and ride on a swing, all while making meaningful progress towards his goals.
“Hunter loves obstacle courses, but has a very hard time conversing with other children his own age,” said Ashley. “Every day we incorporated the obstacle course with something that was hard for him like initiating conversation with other children. He would get to choose whatever he wanted to do and help set it up, and at the same time ask other children if they wanted to help, if they had any ideas or even if they wanted to do the obstacle course with him.”
This tactic worked for Hunter – he’s now comfortable starting conversations with other children by himself. His social skills have improved tremendously. But out of all the things Hunter has gained from therapy, Angie said her biggest gift was very simple – a hug from her son.
“He used to put his arm around you, but his body was saying, ‘Please don’t touch me,’” said Angie. “Now he will actually initiate himself and give me a real hug. The difference is amazing. I can’t find the words to express my gratitude.”
During his last week of the intensives, Hunter accomplished something he’d been practicing for weeks – he sat down and used an adaptive method to tie both of his shoes without help for the first time. After leaping in the air in excitement, he looked at Ashley and said,
“I don’t need help anymore! I can do anything now!”
As Hunter walked out of therapy that day, he told Angie and Ashley that now that he can tie his shoes, he can teach his special way to other kids who have trouble tying theirs. He’ll start fourth grade in the fall and is excited to keep moving forward. He’s graduated from the Neuromotor Intensives program, but he’ll keep coming back to ChildServe for therapy and to visit his friends, Ashley and Christine. Hunter has accomplished many of his goals, but he has one left to conquer – he wants to work at ChildServe when he grows up.
“He sees how his therapists help kids, and he says he wants to help kids too,” said Angie.
ChildServe improves the health and well-being of nearly 4,500 children each year through specialized clinical, home, and community-based programs and services. We serve children with developmental delays, disabilities, acquired injuries, and other special healthcare needs.