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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

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Institute Temporary Closing


Siskin Children’s Institute has issued the following Health Advisory:


Ensuring the safety of the children we serve and our staff is our primary concern. In a moment where our community and nation is preparing for a potential outbreak of Coronavirus (COVID-19) the leadership of Siskin Children’s Institute has decided to close all of our programs, including the Siskin Center for Developmental Pediatrics, Early Learning Center, Home and Community-Based Early Intervention, Family Voices, and all Therapy Clinic Services including Occupational, Physical, Speech, and Applied Behavior Analysis.


Effective immediately Siskin Children's Institute will be closed to the public through Friday, April 24. 

Although closed to the public, there are critical aspects of our organization that will remain operational. We will be providing limited medical care, therapy services, ABA services, and home visiting services via tele-health.


Please be safe, follow safety protocols, wash your hands, and take care of your loved ones as we navigate through this challenging time.

For more information on how Siskin Children's Institute is addressing this health concern and links to important information locally, regionally, and nationally, including information about how to talk to your children about Coronavirus, and additional resources in the Chattanooga and Nashville areas, visit

Prescription Refills or Questions? Click HERE for the Athena Patient Portal or Call the Nurse Line 423.490.7734. Please visit the Athena Patient Portal on our website and read our recently Updated Prescription Policy before calling the number above.

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