Wednesday, February 12, 2014

JACOB'S FUND :: Talking at Last!

While most children utter their first word when they’re around a year old, Christopher’s first words came when he was eleven: "horse, trot fast". Not your typical first words, but his mother, Felicia, was ecstatic to hear them!

Felicia, Christopher, and his brother, ready for therapy
Christopher’s severely autistic. He’s thirteen now, and he has been dealing with his diagnosis since he was a toddler.

His symptoms became apparent before his third birthday, and Felicia immediately began searching for help for him. Fortunately, she found Babies Can’t Wait, a Georgia Department of Health program for infants up to three years old with special needs. Thus began their journey on the road that is so familiar to thousands of families: the constant search for help for a child.

For families like Christopher’s, life assumes a new rhythm with the diagnosis: therapy several times each week, frequent and multiple doctors’ appointments.

While therapy may look simple to a typically developing person, it is hard work for children. Kids with disabilities often spend hours each week making their bodies develop new skills, skills that do not come naturally to them. For many children, therapy is temporary. Within a few months, or perhaps a couple of years, the problem is resolved and the child is back on track developmentally. For kids like Christopher, therapy becomes part of life and continues for many years, on into adulthood.

Hippotherapy requires riding backward too
Thankfully, resources and services for young special needs kids can be quite good. However, just like many other parents in this same situation, Felicia found out that as her son grew older, those resources dwindle dramatically. She found herself as a single mom dealing with two boys, facing the challenges of a special needs child and footing devastating medical expenses on her own.

After eight years of clinical therapy, Christopher’s doctor decided to take a new approach, and prescribed hippotherapy for this budding teenager. Felicia found McKenna Farms and Christopher began equine therapy.

And he began to talk.

What a milestone for a family whose child has never spoken a word! Their world changed in an instant. Now, when Christopher wants to go out, he can say “shoes.” If he needs a shower, he says “wash-wash.” When it’s time to go the bathroom, he can tell his mom “flush toilet.”

After two successful years of hippotherapy, Christopher has graduated to therapeutic riding, which will help him maintain and improve flexibility, balance, and muscle strength. In order to maintain continuous progress, consistent weekly therapy is vital. Felicia is able to pay for one therapeutic riding session a month. Jacob’s Fund underwrites the other three sessions each month to ensure uninterrupted therapy for Christopher, to maximize his potential.

Christopher and his brother with Stephanie, his therapist
Christopher’s speech triumph and the amazing and sometimes unexpected accomplishments of kids like him are what drive Jacob’s Fund‘s efforts. Your support makes it possible. We simply could not do this without you. 

Thank you.

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