Reise Regennitter is a five-year-old boy who is in a typical peer classroom at Marcus-Meriden-Cleghorn. He is speaking in sentences; he has friends; and he is now at the verbal level of a three-and-half-year-old child. He plays with toys the same way any child his age would. He is able to cut with scissors, color and function physically at the level of his peers.

You might ask why these milestones are important? You might only be able to truly appreciate his progress if you place yourself in the shoes of his mother, Alecia Regennitter.

At the age of two, Reise was not meeting the milestones that a typical toddler his age would be acquiring; so, it was requested through a previous daycare provider that the family meet with a Northwest Area Education Agency (AEA) representative to have Reise assessed.

He was evaluated by a Northwest AEA team; and within days, his therapy started. It was not officially known what was wrong with Reise, but it was agreed that there was some level of delayed cognitive growth.

His therapy started with home visits that included occupational therapy with AEA employees, Krista Harpenau; speech therapy with Trish Tisthammer of the AEA; and Anna Schmadeke, an AEA early childhood special education teacher/consultant.

"These three women are responsible for giving him the jump-start in education and therapy that he was in desperate need of," said Alecia.

It was at this time in his life that Reise was only able to make the open mouth “ah” sound and the closed mouth “m” sound. A normal peer of this age is able to say many words and sounds. He also did not have what was considered “typical play” with toys. He would sit and manipulate toys with his hands, but did not understand even the simple things, such as putting buttons into a container or pushing a toy car along the floor.

He was diagnosed with severe Apraxia after an MRI revealed several brain abnormalities. Apraxia is a fancy way of saying that Reise has the words in his head, but his mouth cannot make them come out. He is also diagnosed as being “globally delayed,” which means that he is delayed in several other areas of development.

According to Alecia, the Northwest AEA team involved in Reise’s care provided outstanding services. They not only taught Reise but also provided Alecia with the tools to continue his teaching at home during the in-between times of visits. When Reise entered into the schooling system at the age of three, Amanda Bengtson, an AEA speech-language pathologist, also entered into his therapy. He received, and continues to receive, hours of therapy per month during his school days.

"This means so much to us as parents," explained Alecia. "The service provided is free-of-charge and has done wonders for his development."

Reise is still involved heavily with AEA during his school days. He still has hurdles to overcome in the years ahead of him, and Alecia says they are relying on the continued aid of Northwest AEA to help him just as they have always done. In addition to the already mentioned AEA personnel, Reise is also helped by employees Jill Chalstrom, special education strategist, and Alicia Moos, speech-language pathologist.

"My son deserves the same chance in life that everyone is entitled to," said Alecia. "Going from making only two basic sounds as a toddler to being able to speak in sentences now is an amazing feat for a child with severe Apraxia."

It is only until one understands where a child has started from and what he has overcome that one can truly appreciate the "little things" that have been accomplished!