The Prieto Family’s Journey: Birth to 3
Everyday Life with Service Providers and Support Groups
When Gabby was about five months old we moved into a different house, so we changed teams and Maurean, who was our previous infant teacher, brought Jamie, our new infant teacher, over and the minute he walked into the house I just knew he was a perfect match for our family. He was very positive and…and just our personalities matched and I knew that he would be a great fit for our family. And he was just always focused on Gabby’s strengths, like that was his biggest focus throughout our whole relationship was wanting to build on her strengths, to help her with her weaknesses, so Gabby likes to match pictures so we used that on ways she could communicate her daily needs.
I remember talking to the support group leader very early on right after we had Gabby. I didn’t attend a meeting until probably she was about six months old and it was just a different experience for us. Gabby was meeting all her milestones, she was sitting up and doing all these great things and I don’t know if maybe the other families hadn’t had that experience. So I was pretty uncomfortable that there was this group of people that focused on things that their children weren’t doing, whereas our family always focused on things she was doing. We celebrated every achievement and milestone that she met.
After attending a few meetings and talking to more and more parents, Jorge and I did some more research, talked with Jamie and Jennifer and had Gabby assessed at American River Speech for speech and oral motor therapy and at Sutter for Physical Therapy. We were really happy with the speech therapy and noticed a difference in Gabby’s mouth posture and jaw strength. We tried PT for a while, but it was long drive, once a month, and Gabby was having a hard time adjusting to the therapist. So we explored the world of warm water therapy. Gabby loved the pool and her therapist. It was that constant reassurance from Jamie and Jennifer that gave us the strength to turn away from traditional PT and go with something that Gabby responded so well to.
At about 1 year we upped our visits to weekly. Jamie was really tuned into Gabby and what her strengths were and using those to build up her weakness. I never felt that Jamie and Jennifer were trying to fix her, as I do not see my child as broken. They were merely giving me tools to help her succeed. I also attended a six-week sign language class through the Infant Development Program. I had already used some basic signs with her and just wanted to broaden my vocabulary. I knew how effective signing was for babies; I just didn’t think I would still be using it with my four year old. But we have also come to realize that it is fine…that Gabby communicating is way more important than her speaking. Her signing I LOVE YOU means just as much as if she could say it. I loved being the one to ease her frustration and help her communicate. It was empowering to me.
At this time, I started to attend some Family Connection events. I wanted the connection to other families. I was in a happy, secure place and wanted to be able to talk to others who might be going through what we went through. I attended summer swim and play dates at the center. This was great opportunity for Gabby to interact with other children.
When Gabby was 18 months old I became a parent leader. I was passionate about the Infant Development Program and its belief that the parent is the ultimate teacher, therapist and role model for their child. I wanted to be a liaison for parents and the staff, talking about what families needs were and helping families to understand the IDP’s role in their life. We had many fun events; trips to pumpkin patches, trips to the mall to see Santa, the museum and zoo. And monthly play dates at the center. This was a great way for families to meet additional staff and be in a new environment. At this time, I also became the group leader for the Down Syndrome Support Group. And just when my life got really busy, Gabby hit another milestone and started walking at 21 months. Thank goodness, because we were expecting our second baby in a few short months!