Shannon Butterworth

We have been blessed in amazing ways with the “Birth to Three” program. The attention to detail that each teacher gives to each child is at an expert level rarely seen. We never knew just how important such a program would be; until adopted daughter Grace joined our family in July 2008, when she was 11months old. She had spent her first 11months of life in an orphanage in Mainland China. She had only heard Chinese up until the time she was placed in our arms. It wasn’t until she had been home several months with us, that we noticed some stranger anxiety that seemed to get progressively worse. We had two other biological daughters that were now teens, so we were not “new” to being parents. However, this social and/or stranger anxiety was new to us, and we tried to help Grace as her parents. At first, we thought it might be temporary and maybe “average” for some kids, who might be shyer. But as time went on; we realized this was more serious and not so “average”. It became very difficult for us to go anywhere; grocery store, restaurant, church and other social functions. As soon as she thought anyone was staring at her; she would often try to hide, shake, & cry hysterically. Also by 2yrs. old she wasn’t saying very many English words; but did seem to understand a lot.

We had the amazing opportunity to enroll Grace into the “Birth to Three” program. We decided that we would try it, not knowing if Grace would ever calm enough in her anxiety to stay in the program. We knew that Grace needed to learn to trust others outside our little family, in a safe & loving environment. The transformation that took place was really remarkable! It did take several weeks for Grace to let go of her anxiety enough to enjoy her time in the program. Eventually, under the supervision of Christie Bales, Grace began to bloom like a little flower opening up. The first few weeks Grace wouldn’t even eat her snack while there, as the weeks passed she began to eat and her anxiety decreased enough to begin having fun. She also began to use more words and enter into little conversations with her teachers. The attention to the details of Grace’s specific anxiety issues; along with the patient love they showed, made all the difference on her growth into a more appropriate social life in interactions.

Today, Grace is 3 & 1/2 yrs. old. She is thriving in a two day a week MDO (“Mother’s Day Out”) program. She is trusting of her teachers and playing with her peers. She talks very well now and has no problem entering into social discussions in her class. She might still hide when strangers approach to speak to her or me; but she doesn’t cry in fear and now quickly bounces back to her happy little self. I’m very thankful for the opportunity Grace had to experience the detailed special attention for her specific needs in the “Birth to Three” program. It was the foundation our daughter needed to believe that others outside our family could love, be trusted & be friends to her too. She learned that her little world, under the protective watch of her parents, can be trusted enough to experience
“safe joy” in place of fear.

Thanks “Birth to Three” for teaching our little Grace more about this “safe joy” that is hers for the taking; as she learned to trust enough to come out from the hiding place in her heart. You were her first experience with teachers and there could never be a replacement for that.

Shannon Butterworth (2010) Birth_to_Three_Letters_pdf__page_5_of_28_

Buffy Kirkland

Brayden was born in September of 2008. It was a fairly easy pregnancy. Labor and delivery, although long, went well. The doctor handed me a chubby cheek, blond hair, blue eyed, baby boy. I fell in love in an instant.

He developed normally. He hit all his milestones a little before or right on time. He smiled at one month, held his head up around four months, crawled around seven months, started walking around 10 months, and was saying a few words. Around 18 months I started getting concerned. He wasn’t using as many words as he should have been. I also noticed that he would walk on his tiptoes; bang his head into any and everything when he was upset or crying and sometimes when he was happy. And it didn’t seem to hurt him. He didn’t play with his toys like they should’ve been played with. He would spin the wheels on the cars, but not roll them on the floor, or he would line them up one by one in a row, usually by color or size. He didn’t always respond to his name when called out. He was content to play by himself, even when there were other kids around. He would chew the hem of all his shirts so much that the hemline was gone.

I mentioned all of this to the pediatrician at Brayden’s 18-month check-up. He seemed a little concerned too. He gave me a name and number to someone he thought could help me. That person turned out to be Vicki Miller with TEIS (Tennessee Early Intervention System.) I called and set up a time and date for her to come out and evaluate Brayden. She did and said he was eligible to receive services through them. She then set me up with Speech Therapists, Occupational Therapists and Physical Therapists. But also told me about the Birth to Three Program. At this point, I was overwhelmed with all this information. Not really knowing what to expect, they set me up a meeting with Pam Potocik. She came out to the house and watched Brayden. She asked me tons of questions and filled out forms on him. After she scored everything, she let me know that he met the requirements to attend the center.

He started going to the center once a week for 3 hours. The first couple of days were rough. He cried, I cried, I cried some more. But the ladies at the center were always there for me. They answered my questions (even the ones that were a little crazy). They loaned me books on disorders and printed things off the Internet for me to read.

Okay, move forward about six months. The new year had started, and Brayden was able to go to the center two times a week. Not only had I noticed a difference in him, but everyone else had as well. He was a completely different child. He no longer did the head-banging thing. They were able to show him how to focus on other things instead. By being in the center around other kids with similar problems, he was able to get use to kids. He was able to learn how to take turns, how to share, and
how to wait in line. They worked with him on his speech by showing him sign language, the PEC system (Picture Exchange Communication), and encouraging him to use his voice, as well as the other stuff. He knows close to 20 signs and the words that go with them and several three-word phrases.

In November of 2009, we had a meeting with a psychologist. After several meetings and evaluations, he told me that my chubby cheek, blond hair, blue-eyed little boy had autism. I had suspected it, but it still hurt hear the diagnosis. Nobody wants something to be wrong with their baby. But I embraced it, got books about it, and learned everything I could. The ladies at the center were great, and they were there for me, no matter the time of day.

Things at the center were going great. Brayden was improving by leaps and bounds. In September when he turned three he transitioned into the school system. Christie Bales, who was his home teacher, came with me to the initial evaluations at the school system. She was there to help me fill in the blanks when I didn’t know the answer or understand the questions. She was able to give them perspective on Brayden and how he was to where he is now. She was able to give them little tips on how to deal with him on his bad days. Also, Mrs. Christie hooked me up with a couple of support groups for parents of special needs kids that I attend regularly. Currently, he is in preschool at Carpenters Elementary. He is still improving and doing great, and I credit the Birth to Three for a lot of that. I just want to say how great it is that there’s a place as AMAZING as The Birth to Three. If it weren’t for the loving, caring staff, Brayden wouldn’t be doing as well as he is today. They put more heart and soul into their jobs than most people would ever do. They go out of their way to make the parents new to a diagnosis to feel comfortable with it. They are always there to lend an ear or a shoulder. No question is too stupid or crazy, they answer you anyway. It’s one big family. Once you go through the Birth to Three, they’re friends for life.

Buffy Kirkland (2010)Birth_to_Three_Letters_pdf__page_4_of_28_

April Peercy

Dear Sir or Madam,

My name is April Peercy, and I am the mother of a two-and-half year old girl named Braelyn. Braelyn was born with several genetic anomalies, but there has been no genetic syndrome pinpointed for her.

In February 2009 we moved to Tennessee from Indiana. Braelyn was in the First Steps Early Intervention System in Indiana, and we quickly got into the Tennessee Early Intervention System when we moved to Tennessee. The early interventionist who saw Braelyn mentioned the Birth to Three program, and I thought that was exactly what Braelyn needed to have the interaction with other children her age.

In August 2009, we met Miss Christie Bales, and she was an angel sent from above. Christie, being the mother of a child with Cerebral Palsy knew what I was going through with Braelyn and treated Braelyn as if she were her own child. Christie and the other teachers at Birth to Three have hearts of gold and are some of the most compassionate people I have met. Every child is treated as if they are their own child, and these teachers show so much love to the children they work with on a daily basis.

In August 2010 I had to make a very tough decision to move back to Indiana to be close with family and to take my job back. The hardest part of making this decision was pulling Braelyn from the Birth to Three program away from her teachers and friends she had made at school. There is no program for infants to age three here in Indiana which breaks my heart because that is a crucial time for children to have interaction with other children. I noticed such a difference in Braelyn after attending Birth to Three as she interacted with other people.

In closing, I believe the Birth to Three program and staff are absolutely phenomenal. If I were still living in Tennessee, I know that Braelyn would be in the Birth to Three program, and it breaks my heart there is no program in Indiana similar to Birth to Three. The staff and Birth to Three program are greatly missed by both Braelyn and myself.

Sincerely, April Peercy Birth_to_Three_Letters_pdf__page_2_of_28_

Sarah Johnson

My name is Sarah Johnson and my family has been touched by the LTVEC Birth to Three program in so many ways. Our daughter, Chloe was born with a rare duplication of part of her 15 Chromosome. Unfortunately, we did not move back to the Maryville area until she was 3 so she did not get to participate in this wonderful program. However, we were very lucky to get our second child, Sadie, on the waiting list and she has been a peer child there since, Sep. 09.

The staff has been such a blessing to us. Giving us advice on how to address behavioral concerns when we found out that in lots of ways the typical toddler is harder to handle sometimes than the special needs one! They have helped Sadie to learn to play better with her sister; they have helped me deal with the pressures of raising kids that could not be more different and to find things that work for both despite their differences. To see Sadie start to bloom and become such a sweet compassionate person, with this groups help, is just amazing. As anyone with toddlers knows, to see them go from that selfish, uncivilized toddler, to a sharing, caring compassionate child is simply miraculous!

It took me a while, but I believe with all my heart the kids like Chloe are made to give us all opportunities to grow and be the best people we can be. To think of news ways to teach things, to push us to really give of ourselves and see it so appreciated. To know how good that feels. That we were able to meet a need at that exact time when it is so needed.

We were not lucky enough to live in an area where there was a program like this for Chloe. Maybe if there had been, I would have had the confidence and strength I feel now a couple of years earlier. I don’t know. But I sure know that I hate the thought of any families having to go through the first years of such life-changing event of having a special needs child without such a program. And now this wonderful program is in danger of losing it’s funding. I know that times have been tough on everyone, but these kids don’t know that. And as families, we are so busy taking it one day at a time, one milestone at a time, one doctor visit at a time, that we don’t have a lot of energy left over to care about the economy. This program has been a rock to so many families, for so many years. We can’t let it fall. For all of us.

“Though He brings grief, He will show compassion, so great is His unfailing love” Lamentations 3:32 NIV