Catholic Charities West Virginia’s Birth to Three RAU-1 program works with families and specialists to decide which supports and services are needed for children ages birth to three who have a delay in their development or may be at risk for a delay.
Throughout the coronavirus pandemic, we have continued providing services to families.
Elise Fecat shares her family’s experience:
“We had just completed our annual review of what felt like a whirlwind of a year and I felt great about our future. My little boy had just received his brand new hearing aids and a Speech Language Pathologist and Hearing Specialist had been added to our team. At 18 months old, he had started walking independently and things seemed to be progressing quickly with physical and developmental therapies. Then the pandemic hit and I was panicked. My team, as usual, stepped up and we got through it.
My son was born with a severe foot deformity and we joined the Birth to Three program when he was seven months old. In that first year, the team was with us as we overcame one hurdle after another – casting, braces, a hearing impaired diagnosis, a fight for hearing aids, and the list goes on. With each bump in the road, they were my support system. There were days when all I could see were delays and struggles, and they would come swooping in with positivity and reassurances. When I had self-doubt, they propped me up and reminded me of all that Jake and our family had already overcome. They pointed out not only his strengths, but our family’s strengths as well.
I remember talking to my husband as more and more restrictions were put in place last spring about how all of it was going to affect our boy. I was so worried about losing services because we had come so far, and the thought of regression hung in my mind like an ominous rain cloud. For a while, the team continued in home visits and I really thought that we were going to get through the shutdown without any interruptions, but inevitably, home visits were stopped. When virtual visits were first introduced, all I could think was how on Earth are we going to do virtual therapy? I wasn’t trained in anything and I also had kids ages 2 and 3 ½ years old. How was I going to find time to be solely focused on a computer screen for an hour, and how was I going to make Jake focus too?
With a lot of grace on both ends, the team and I quickly hit our stride. We found ways to make it work for our family – for example, we would adjust times, sometimes meeting twice a week for a half hour instead of once a week for an hour. The team was so patient as Jake darted in and out of the screen and I peppered them with what felt like a thousand questions. At each visit, they would have new ideas to engage Jake and keep him focused. Sometimes those ideas worked, and sometimes not so much. They talked me through different techniques to help Jake and assigned “homework.” I was diligent with everything that they were telling me, and the line between mom and therapist became blurred for those few months, but it felt so worth it! I had already developed a great relationship with our team and over those months, a new level had been reached. I was gaining confidence as our weekly chats confirmed that my fear of regression would not come true.
While I can’t say that I loved virtual therapy, it did have its benefits. My worry for Jake’s future after Birth to Three has ebbed a little, thanks to the crash course lessons in therapy that I received. I am thankful for the inventiveness of my therapists and the quick action of the Birth to Three program as they adjusted. By the time we were allowed to resume in home visits again, the entire team was impressed with Jake’s progress, and that made my momma heart soar. What could have been a detrimental setback for my son ended up being a great hands-on experience for me!”
By Jade Jeffers, CCWVa WV Birth to Three RAU-1 Parent Partner