Before KidsAbility, Everleigh was terrified to meet people. New connections and situations filled her with anxiety. She would burst into tears – or shut down completely – because she couldn’t verbally communicate that she was scared.
“Colin and I went in search of help,” shared Becca, Everleigh’s mom. “It was all so brand new for us.”
At first, they were heartbroken to learn that the overwhelming demand for regional pediatric therapy services meant missed opportunities for their little girl while they waited for access to KidsAbility. But things changed for Everleigh once physio, speech-language and occupational therapy sessions became available.
“We were helped by the Seating Clinic services to keep her safe and comfortable in her wheelchair,” explained Becca. “And Everleigh received the same experience of movement as other kids her age in an adaptive child-sized electric car through the Go Baby Go program. Two years later and Everleigh is in kindergarten at KidsAbility School, and she is blossoming!”
Kirstina Hipel agrees. As Everleigh’s teacher, she’s seen leaps and bounds in the five-year-old's progress since the start of school.
“The kindergarten program at KidsAbility supports students’ growth with play-based learning, and Everleigh is succeeding so well in our classroom community. She uses a customized speech communication device that is touchscreen and sight-tracking. She navigates the icons and images on the screen to participate, ask questions, make jokes, and have fun with her peers and educators.”
Becca remembers those early months when her daughter first learned to use her eyes to search the device for images, words and phrases that command her tablet to speak.
“We call those phrases her words. With them, Everleigh can express herself all on her own and be herself: bright, cheeky, funny, and social, without needing me or her dad to speak for her.”
Becca is amazed at how it’s building Everleigh’s confidence in social situations.
“She adds extra silliness to the jokes in her device by mixing up the punchlines. She can share about our weekend family activities, and she loves celebrating family birthdays singing along with everyone!”
Kirstina was quick to recognize some things that are new and unfamiliar can initially be a bit intimidating for Everleigh, like the new interactive Promethean whiteboard that allows her teacher to deliver image-filled group lessons.
“We introduced adaptive equipment – a long pole – to help her interact with the larger screen and learn alongside others. She can hold it and reach the screen. And when Everleigh holds objects, she strengthens her hands so that using a spoon and holding story props during circle time with her classmates is practice she doesn’t realize is happening; it’s just play.”
Part of the available equipment Everleigh accesses daily is a standing frame. It supports her body while keeping her safe, secure and comfortable and eye-level with her peers. A rolling stander holds her communication device, so it is always mobile and accessible for little chit-chat moments with a particular peer that she just adores.
“It seems so long ago that she held back from participating in class,” reflects Kirstina. “But now, she is beaming with excitement and confidence, engaging with her big smile and her giggle along with her communication device both inside the classroom and in our playground’s outdoor learning space.”
It's clear to Kirstina that Everleigh is excited every day to make new friends and share her words while exploring her world and taking every opportunity to just be a kid.
“Just the other day, a classroom friend was eager to be a helper and push the adaptable trike Everleigh is trialing around the hallways. And we recently made a classroom cake to celebrate her birthday month with all the students joining together in a circle. There were lots of smiles. We have such a beautiful peer community, and all these positive interactions really support her engagement.”
Community support helps empower kids like Everleigh to reach their potential by providing the best possible pediatric therapy when they needed it most. That’s the life-changing impact your donation makes every day.