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Our five-year-old daughter Maddy is one of the happiest little girls you will ever meet. One of the best things about her is that she can find pure joy in the simplest things. She cannot speak but she has a very determined way to get her point across to those of us who know her well. She is so full of energy that the comment I hear most often from people when they meet her is “She is busy, isn’t she?”.

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She was born after a normal, healthy pregnancy and delivery, but we soon realized she would face a lot of challenges. From birth, she had a congenital cataract leading her to require a contact lens and glasses, and an underdeveloped optic nerve causing decreased vision. By 6 months of age, I knew that there was something different about her. She didn’t seem to find interest in toys, had trouble sitting up and lifting her head. She rarely smiled or made eye contact. We started Early On when she was around 6 months, but it didn’t take us long to realize the services they provided weren’t enough to help her to “catch up”.

"By 6 months of age, I knew that there was something different about her. She didn’t seem to find interest in toys, had trouble sitting up and lifting her head."

As she got older, we had a list of symptoms that included low muscle tone, poor balance, lack of eye contact, delayed speech (to name a few), but no name or diagnosis to go with it. We sought help from geneticists and neurodevelopment pediatricians, who couldn’t give us answers – other than she needed therapy. We were given a list of names and our search for help began.

Insurance companies didn’t want to help pay for therapy after a very limited number of sessions. They didn’t care that my girl couldn’t speak, or would only eat a very limited diet of pureed foods, or that she couldn’t walk. We knew she needed these therapies, the out-of-pocket costs added up fast. We visited many different therapy programs, trying to find the right fit for Maddy. Then we found the Center for Childhood Development – and our world changed.

We started by using up the little insurance benefit we had, and then we paid out-of-pocket for as many sessions as we could afford. Molly referred us to the Family Hope Foundation and we were able to qualify for a scholarship, which kept us going and was such a blessing.

"…we could tell that they just understood Maddy in a way we couldn’t yet."

Soon after that, a new law passed requiring insurance companies to cover therapy for Autism. It was The Center that recognized that Autism might be a fitting diagnosis for Maddy. I know many parents are afraid of the label, but that evaluation and diagnosis allowed Maddy to get the treatment and therapy she needed.

Right from the beginning, working with Molly and many of the other therapists there, we could tell that they just understood Maddy in a way we couldn’t yet. It was like they were speaking her language. We went to them feeling so overwhelmed wondering if we were doomed to spend our entire lives just bouncing her on our laps (because that is the only thing that made her happy back then).

Maddy has made a lot of progress in the 4 years she has been at The Center. I can’t even count the number of times I have cried happy tears there watching her. She started out as a little toddler who couldn’t figure out her own body in space – didn’t like to be touched much, and rarely smiled or made eye contact, and who had very little interest in others around her. She is now a very affectionate, loving little girl, who smiles and giggles and tries so hard to join in with the other kids in her own way. While she can’t speak verbally, through working with her Speech Language Pathologists, she is learning to use an iPad for communication, which has been so exciting.

The thing that still amazes me to this day about The Center is how each of the therapists truly understands each of the kids. We have worked with multiple therapists at different times and I am always impressed at how each of them is able to work with Maddy in a way that is meaningful to her. The Center has become not only a place for Maddy to get treatment, but it is also a place she looks forward to every week. She truly loves it and we couldn’t imagine finding a better place for our girl.

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