When asked about the progress of their 10-month-old daughter Brooke, parents, Amy and Jason, repeatedly sing the praises of Northwest AEA's Early ACCESS employees.

"I firmly believe that AEA's services are a huge part of why our daughter is exceeding all initial expectations by her physicians," expressed Amy. "All of them deserve a huge pat on the back for the services that they provide. They are very caring, kind individuals who make a difference in kids' lives on a daily basis."

Amy and Jason were introduced to the services of Northwest AEA when Brooke was born last October with lissencephaly with microcephaly, absent corpus callosum, and some adrenal issues. Through their stay at the NICU in Children's Hospital in Omaha, they were given information and a referral for Early ACCESS, which is a partnership between families with young children—birth to age three—and providers from the Departments of Education, Public Health, Human Services and the Child Health Specialty Clinics to help families assist their infant or toddler to grow and develop. 

Sue Moran, early childhood special education teacher/consultant, was appointed as the case coordinator from Northwest AEA. In addition to Sue, Northwest AEA Occupational Therapist Beth Tisher has assisted with fine motor skills and feeding issues; and Karen Mohring, physical therapist, has also worked with Brooke to help her with gross motor skills.

Amy said that from day one, the AEA team made home visits to figure out what was needed for Brooke's special needs. Amy and Jason were especially impressed by, and thankful for, the encouragement and listening by the Early ACCESS team so that, together, they could focus on achieving Brooke's milestones.

"We are fortunate to have these very caring individuals help us to get Brooke to her full potential," Amy said.  "Sue got involved in our case very early on and helped me tremendously by working through things with me at a very difficult time for my family."

Sue says her initial goal was to develop a relationship with Amy and Jason (as it always is when first working with a family) so they felt comfortable with her and others working with their child.

"She (Brooke) was so little when we started, and we did not know the extent of her disabilities. Our focus was to ensure that she was given as much tummy time to strengthen her body so that muscles and strength would develop," explained Sue. "We also worked on tracking objects and watched overall for any signs of seizures or aspiration when taking the bottle."

Fortunately, neither of these health risks has surfaced for Brooke.
 
Right now, everyone's focus is to get Brooke to finger-feed herself; tolerate different textures; increase her motor abilities, such as independent sitting and crawling; and express more vocal sounds.

Sue emphasized the role of supportive parents, like Amy and Jason, who make the ultimate difference in a child's road to improvement.

"We, through Early ACCESS, are there to help parents understand areas of strengths, deficits, and how to hopefully improve overall development; but the family members are who have to follow through day-in and day-out," she explained.

Luckily for Brooke, she has both a strong family support system and a very dedicated and caring AEA team on her side.