Success Stories: We do make a difference!
Tiffany Simkins, Lewis County Head Start/EHS, Chehalis WA
As a busy working mom Head Start has made it possible for children, such as my own, to have quality preschool as well as be kindergarten ready. I became a mom for the first time when I was 16. Traditional high school no longer worked for me and my daughter, so I transferred to an alternative high school program in my local community college. I think that was my first taste of a program the not only cared about my daughter meeting her developmental milestones, but me meeting my milestones as well. In a sense, I was a baby too. I worked hard and with that program graduated high school a year ahead of my traditional graduating class. I was able to start on my AA degree and get a job to support my daughter because of that program.
My financial situation was much better when my oldest daughter was preschool age and I was able to pay for a private preschool program for her. As the economy has taken a dive, so has my income. My husband and I own a roofing company and as you may imagine people aren't looking to replace their roofs. Our main income comes from repairs, which isn't much income at all. Head Start has given my children and family the quality preschool that will make my children ready for the kindergarten through twelfth grade system.
My son, Rodney (age 6) graduated from the program two years ago, and started 1st grade this year. He is the top reader in his class. He is reading above grade level and his math and science skills are exceptional. My daughter, Leigha (age 5) graduated from the Lewis County Head Start last year, and she continually amazes her father and I. She is reading and writing and has started basic math skills. She started Kindergarten this year and her teacher told me she could tell Leigha had an amazing preschool experience. Academically she is right where she should be, but she also has wonderful people skills. I know I sound like abragging momma, but how can't I be? Lewis County Head Start has given me so much! I could never say how grateful I am for what they have done for my children my family and myself.
I’ve gained so much knowledge, and numerous skills that I will take with me for the rest of my life. I’m gaining skills on a daily basis. I’m currently my child’s classroom representative to Policy Counsel; the Lewis County Head Start Policy Counsel Chairperson; Washington State Association of Head Start and ECEAP Lewis County Representative; and a Washington State Association of Head Start and ECEAP Parent Ambassador. All of these positions were made available to me because the other parents, staff, managers and director at LCHS believed that I could. They raised me up and made me realize my voice. I won’t pretend I have the strongest and the loudest voice, but I’m a far cry from where I was at my first parent meeting. And I owe it all to Head Start.
I’m on schedule to complete my BA in April of 2011. I’m a one time 16 year old mom, who will have a BA in Law and Human Development. All because a program believed that I was capable, and they made me believe it too.
Thank You Head Start, and one day, one way I’ll be able to find a way to repay this program for all they have done.
April Ritter Terry, ESD 113 Sound to Harbor Head Start/ECEAP, Elma WA
When my daughter Lauryn reached about a year old, she still wasn't talking much. She was not saying many words, but she talked a great deal. NO ONE could understand her but me. Half the time her own dad couldn't understand her. We spent many hours trying to decipher and translate what she was saying to family members. She mumbled a lot, and her words were garbled. My oldest daughter was speaking in full sentences by the time she was 1, so this was a big difference for me. I know people always tell you not to compare your children, but this was very hard to do. It was such a drastic difference, that I started to wonder if something was wrong. I took Lauryn to the doctor, and during her well child exams, I always brought up to her provider that I was concerned about her speech. Many times, my oldest daughter was with me, and when the provider would ask Lauryn a question, Ashley (the oldest) would always answer for her. The provider kept chalking it up to the oldest talking for her, and assured me it was just a normal part of sibling interaction. Because Ashley spoke for her, the provider just assured me this is why Lauryn wasn't talking. Two years went by, and this was ALWAYS a concern for me. I always brought it up, and was always given the same answer - it was because her sister spoke for her. Around this time, I enrolled Lauryn in the ECEAP program at our local school. She had turned 3 and was eligible. She went through the preschool screening, and during part of that, was interviewed by the Speech Therapist. The Therapist noticed a delay in her, and noticed that she had a hard time pronouncing certain syllables. This was put in her file, and Lauryn started school in the fall of 2007.
This video was taken of Lauryn around the time she started preschool for the first time at age 3. She is singing a song, and out of all the words, I can only identify a few.
Her teachers paid attention to the mumbling and the inattention she had. Because I had other people observing her besides family, they were noticing a delay in speech as well. Her sister wasn't around during preschool time, so it was much easier to see there was a problem. The teachers brought to my attention their concerns, and I told them I had thought something wasn't right for a long time. The ECEAP program provided a meeting with a Speech Therapist and we proceeded with an evaluation and an IEP. Lauryn was referred to a hearing specialist as a precautionary step. My doctor had NEVER ordered a referral or an evaluation. I was laughed at when I brought my concerns to them.
Through the referral from the ECEAP speech therapist, we discovered at a hearing test, that Lauryn was 75% deaf in one ear, and 25% in the other!! My daughter was almost 4 years old by the time this was discovered! The specialist explained that the reason Lauryn wasn't speaking correctly was because she had a massive amount of fluid on her ears, and suffered from Estachian Tube Dysfunction, a genetic problem that causes the tubes to not grow properly and drain fluid from the ears. She was not speaking correctly because to her, everyone sounded like they were underwater. She was just relaying it back the way she heard it. The doctors assured me it was an easy fix. Lauryn underwent surgery, and had tubes placed in her ears. She returned back to school, I informed the ECEAP staff what we had discovered and they re-evaluated Lauryn's IEP to include Speech Therapy for at least 20 minutes a week, if not more. She continued with her Speech Therapy, and we saw great strides in her speech, and her education.
In the Fall of 2009, our situation changed once again. I was no longer working, and this made a huge difference in where my child would attend preschool. During the summer of 2009, I walked in to our local Head Start to apply for a position. This was the same Head Start my oldest daughter attended, so I was familiar with the staff. Many of the same teachers and faces, I had dealt with 3 years prior. I inquired about the waiting list, because of missing the registration deadlines I knew there had to be one. I was told that I could put Lauryn on the waiting list, but through a conversation, I learned that were completely full except for one spot they were holding for a student with a disability, or IEP. When I let the staff know that my child already had an IEP in place, she was placed in the last spot for that classroom. This was about 2 weeks before classes were to start. It was a complete godsend, and a perfect example of being in the right place at the right time that she was blessed with this slot in the Elma Head Start program. I was so excited for her to attend! Lauryn continued with her Speech Therapy, and the combination of that therapy, and getting her hearing finally under control, today, you could probably not even tell that she once had a Speech Delay. She can write her name, knows all of her ABC's and 123's, and is completely ready for Kindergarten this Fall. Lauryn's IEP was re-evaluated and with assistance from our home school Speech Therapist, it was determined that an IEP was no longer a necessity for her, and that she is right on target for her benchmarks.
If it were not for the help I received in diagnosing my daughter with a disability, I fear she would have started school unable to hear, afraid of learning, with people not being able to understand her. It would have probably taken another 3 years longer than it did, and that was already 3 years too long. Instead of starting Kindergarten with a disability or a delay, we were able to fix the problem before she became another statistic. We were able to save her school district the financial commitment it would have taken from their Special Ed department after she started school this fall.
Lauryn is now a completely well adjusted, smart, TALKATIVE, little girl, who is ready to start Kindergarten in the fall of 2010 with no barriers to her education. She can hear and now she can speak, and is ready to start learning even more.
I have learned that with the right tools in hand, I could be the voice for my daughter, I had known all along that something wasn't right with her. The staff at all of the centers Lauryn attended, listened to me, and helped me figure out how to take action. With the tools I received from being a parent in the Head Start program, I learned to not doubt myself and my instincts. The education and information I have received as a parent in this program, have increased my knowledge tenfold, of simple everyday life things. I have learned how to be a better mother, a more knowledgeable adult, and most importantly an involved parent in my children's lives.
Kylee Allen , Skagit/Islands Head Start
I wanted to take the time to share with you my success story with Head Start.
I have been a part of the Head Start program for the last four years adn it really has helped make my family a better and stronger family unit. My daugher started with Early Head Start and moved to Head Start with a major speech delay. By the time she finished Head Start her self-confidence and her speaking abilities were 100% improved. She was prepared to start kindergarten with high confidence. I am a stronger mother due to Head Start.