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 Siskin Children's Institute

Michael's Story

December 13th, 2018

"It is this unique experience of the staff at Siskin that helps special needs parents on their child’s journey. I will miss them all when Michael goes on to his next step, but I know that he will be ready due to Siskin’s dedication to kids like my Michael."      

-- Patty, Michael's mom 

Michael was born in September of 2013. He had some signs of Down syndrome at birth but the doctors told us not to be alarmed and that they were ordering the tests just as a precaution. We received a positive diagnosis of Down syndrome four days after he was born. We found out three days later that he had a congenital heart defect which would require a major heart surgery to repair by the time he was 6 months old. It was a week of shocks to say the least.

Michael’s new diagnosis threw me immediately into research mode to try to find out the best way to help my new son. I had not up until that point been around anyone that had Down syndrome so I was really in the dark about what to do. A nurse in the hospital and my pediatrician had told me about the Tennessee Early Intervention System (TEIS) and Siskin Children’s Institute. I called TEIS a few weeks after Michael was born. I was quickly set up with a case manager to discuss Michael’s immediate needs and what we may need in the coming weeks and months. The heart defect was of course the determining factor in how much intervention he needed to receive right away. I was immediately assigned a physical therapist to call whenever I felt he was going to be ready for some assessments. We started in-home physical therapy when Michael was about two months old. Physical therapy and occupational therapy continued weekly along with some feeding therapies along the way, until Michael was about eight months old when he went to Cincinnati Children’s Hospital for a heart surgery to repair his Atrioventricular Septal Defect. The surgery was a great success and he started back on his normal therapies in our home until he was almost two years old.

As Michael was approaching his second birthday, we had stepped up his physical therapy in the home and even in the therapist’s outside office in Hixson, but Michael was still not walking. His therapist suggested that Michael had nothing physically preventing him from being able to walk. He did have one piece that was missing in his therapies which was that he hardly ever was around other children his own age. She felt that he would greatly benefit from being in a classroom with other children his own age. I started to send him to a mother’s day out a couple of times a week, but Michael did not do very well in this setting. No matter how hard the teachers tried Michael cried almost constantly and was not able to really integrate with the other toddlers because he was so upset all the time. Luckily in those first few weeks I had sent him to the mother’s day out, Siskin’s Early Learning Center called me to tell me a spot had opened up for Michael in a classroom. 

We started sending Michael to Siskin three days a week. From the first day in classroom four, Michael really blossomed in his growth and learning.  The teachers and students in the classroom went above and beyond to help me and Michael with the transition. Within a few days Michael did not cry hardly at all after I left. He started to receive in-house physical therapy and began walking within two or three weeks of starting at the Institute. 

Michael just turned five years old in September of 2018 and has been in four different classrooms at Siskin since he started. The therapists, teachers, administration and students have been just awesome. They have been our family’s partner through this journey from the first few weeks that Michael was born to his transition this coming spring to kindergarten in a public school. I am a parent of four children and Michael is my youngest. When he was first born, the fears that I had for him centered on the transitions in his life. I worried about his transition from baby to toddler and then to young child getting ready for the big public school. I also worried all the time that I was not doing enough for Michael because of my obligations with my other children. 

Although it is normal human emotion to worry about your children, the worry of a special needs parent is sometimes overwhelming. The staff of Siskin is always learning and gaining more experience through working with generations of special kids growing up there. It is this unique experience of the staff at Siskin that helps special needs parents on their child’s journey. I will miss them all when Michael goes on to his next step, but I know that he will be ready due to Siskin’s dedication to kids like my Michael.     

- Patty, Michael's mom