My favorite blog topics are the “Family Spotlights”. I love hearing their stories and sharing their milestones. I had the pleasure of meeting one incredible little girl named Avery a few weeks ago. When I was looking for a family to spotlight, I asked my co-worker Elise Washington if she knew anyone that would be interested. Without hesitating, she told me that Avery’s family would be perfect and she was right! Elise talked to Avery’s parents, Betsy & Brian, and they were on board, so we arranged a time for me to join one of Elise’s Family Training sessions.
Avery is a beautiful 3 year old who immediately invited me to play with her. Right away, she wanted to show off her new skills of standing alone and navigating the stairs. A few minutes later, she even shared her Peppa Pig toys with me, so I knew I was accepted. Elise and I sat on the floor and played with her while I asked Mom lots of questions about Avery, their family, and their Bright Start experience. Betsy, Brian, Cole, and Avery have been a Bright Start family from the beginning. Mom told me that they came home from the hospital in March and Elise started in April. Avery was born with Esophageal Atresia & Manibulofacial Dysostosis with Microcephaly. She also had a heart defect and faced several surgeries in her first six months of life. She has a feeding tube that she was so proud show me! Avery has recently made some pretty awesome progress! She has so many signs that she is now teaching Elise new ones. Avery demonstrated this by hiding a car in the tunnel and then signing “where?” to get us to look for it. She is doing very well with her LAMP communication system, too! Avery is eating by mouth some now, so Mom said that the team is “starting to institute a tube wean plan to have her eat 100% by mouth”. This is huge news and quite the accomplishment for this tough little girl! Avery is such a happy child and I couldn’t help but smile the entire time I was there. Mom told me that Avery loves music, baby dolls, stacking toys, Paw Patrol, and pushing cars with her big brother Cole. A lot of time is devoted to Avery’s therapy, so Mom & Dad make sure that there is also plenty of time for fun family adventures. They love to go for golf cart rides, kayaking, and going out on their boat.
Elise was able to put together a phenomenal team of therapists for Avery. Her Occupational Therapist is Paul Tardy and her Physical Therapist is Patrick “Mr. Pat” Bowers. Avery is very fortunate to have two Speech Language Pathologists. Carrie Reynolds helps Avery with language and communication. And SLP Michelle Dawson, along with working on language and communication, is teaching the team about feeding therapy and is leading the effort to wean Avery from her tube feeds. Elise sees the family two times every month for Family Training. We then talked about Bright Start. Avery’s nurse, Kathie, was also there and told me that “Bright Start is a wonderful agency” that has “helped Avery grow by leaps and bounds”. Mom said that “Bright Start has been instrumental in guiding our family through this process starting from when Avery was first brought home to now. I don’t think we would have known what to do without our wonderful EI, Elise. She has really worked with our family and our ever-changing needs and made sure that we always have the best therapies, therapists, referrals, etc that we need for Avery. We have been with Bright Start for almost three years now and I can’t recommend them enough. We have had a wonderful experience”.
Speaking of the best therapists, I agree with Mom and Elise when they said that Avery has some of the best! I have had the privilege of working alongside all 4 of them. This really is a “Dream Team”. This team is very fortunate to have Elise as its leader. Elise and I have known each other for 9 years. We both started working at Bright Start way back in 2008. She is a natural and her love for this job is clearly evident. When asked about Elise’s impact on her family, Betsy had a lot to say: “Elise has been working with Avery since the very beginning. She was instrumental in getting Avery set up with her team of therapists. She is always willing to adjust her schedule to our needs, whether it means seeing Avery on a different day or time or cutting back on visits during times in life when we may feel overwhelmed. Avery has recently started preschool and Elise was there with us during the IEP meeting to make sure all bases were covered. We appreciate her more than we could ever say!”
I know that some of you are just beginning this Early Intervention journey, so I asked Betsy if she had any advice for you. She said that “it can be scary and overwhelming at first—trying to navigate the world of being a special needs parent, but you don’t have to do it by yourself. There are so many wonderful people who can’t wait to help these children meet their milestones. Our therapists have become like our family and they love on Avery as is she was one of their own. They get just as excited as we do when she learns new things!”
It was truly a pleasure getting to spend time with Avery and her mom. I loved hearing how Bright Start has made a difference for their family. Thank you, Betsy, for opening your home to us and for being such an amazing, strong, and inspiring mom. We are forever thankful that you are a member of our Bright Start Family and I look forward to hearing about sweet Avery’s next big accomplishments.
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