Candice got a phone call from a social worker. A baby named Tara needed a loving home. Tara had had an unfair start in life. She was exposed to drugs in the womb. She was removed from her birth parents after a severely traumatic experience at 5 weeks old. Candice and her husband, Daniel, had a baby, Declan, who was just two weeks older than Tara, plus 4-year-old Seamus. But Tara needed them, so they made room in their family and began the adoption process.
As Candice and Daniel got to know Tara, they saw she wasn’t developing the skills appropriate for her age. When she was 18 months old, Tara entered Wayfinder’s Early Intervention Program with several types of developmental delays. She didn’t understand emotions on faces or comprehend simple phrases. She fell down frequently. Wayfinder early intervention specialist Maria Gomez took on Tara’s challenging case.
To handle complex cases, Wayfinder specialists receive training in stress and vicarious trauma management, funded by The Carl and Roberta Deutsch Foundation. “Listening to Tara’s background was very intense,” Maria recalls. “I had to be sensitive to the family and give 100 percent while not letting it take a toll on my personal health.”
“Wayfinder jumped right in and tried to understand,” says Candice. “They were really good listeners and thought outside the box. Maria watched and caught things that I even missed.” Maria and Candice set an initial goal for Tara in early intervention: to pay attention to a book while Candice read to her. Candice and Daniel did not know why this was hard for Tara. Then Maria had an idea. “Maria said we should try books with more realistic illustrations of people,” recalls Candice. “I would have never thought of that. It was a game changer. Now she loves reading books.”
Maria used emotion cards—with realistic illustrations—to help Tara understand emotions on faces. “We realized how much she was starting to improve when we showed her the laugh card one day,” Candice remembers. “Tara threw her head back and did the biggest laugh. We hadn’t modeled it for her. What she did was funny. We laughed for 10 minutes.” After a year in early intervention, Tara is making great strides. Her vocabulary has increased dramatically, and she is using two- and three-word sentences. Her physical stability is better.
During the pandemic, Tara is continuing to improve through telehealth sessions and learning materials that Maria drops off. Wayfinder’s virtual parent support group was a big help to Candice. “Wayfinder means a safe place for our family,” Candice says. “They are so professional and caring.”
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December 16, 2020