Santa Barbara County Education Office - ZACA Center



Transition to ZACA

Leana Watson: Parent
I had a one-year-old son at the time and he had a tremendous amount of medical problems. He had two open-heart surgeries and spent, essentially, his first year in intensive care. He emerged with a tracheotomy, on a ventilator, a feeding tube, oxygen, pace maker, and a nurse in our home 24 hours a day. We had an early start interventionist come to our home. We had already been doing a lot of physical therapy, speech therapy, and occupational therapy.

She came to our home, because he was trached, we really did not want him to be around a lot of other children for airway issues and illness. As he started getting better, she said, why don’t you bring him to ZACA and be able to socialize with other children.

Alec’s experiences with ZACA were amazing. He came in, because he was trached for two years, he could not speak for those years. We did a lot of sign language with him, but he essentially, did not start speaking until after two.

When we were looking for preschools, we looked at many different preschools and were looking for a preschool that could provide him a really rich social environment because he needed to see his peers modeling correct speech behavior and socialization cues and skills. He needed the structure and the high teacher-student ratio. He needed all of those things as well as just a fabulous physical environment, a school that was beautiful and provided a great play structure.

I remember when we first brought Alec he had some major separation anxiety. Because he was trached we were suctioning him constantly and he would be very gaggy and he would vomit. He was vomiting at home probably 20-40 times a day, literally, for two years. It is just part of the gagging-trach thing. He had learned how to, when he got really upset, how to make himself vomit and how to make himself do other things like that to get our attention. So, when he was having some significant separation anxiety, he would be crying to the point that he would vomit. We worked it to where I was actually in the classroom for quite a while and kind of weaned myself out of it over the course of like six months. The staff was so great, they wanted to do what worked well for Alec and if that meant that I sat in a corner for a little while and then left, that was fine. If it meant that they figured out a way to help engage him in an activity so that he could deal with it for a little while until I returned, they were great with that.