Teija's Story » 2015-Mar-13

On November 17, 2008 my husband Brian and I were very excited about the birth of our first child, a little girl, we named Teija June Lawson. Teija was born with Down syndrome, one of the most common chromosomal abnormalities, that causes both developmental and physical delays. The birth of your first child is a nerve racking experience for any new parent, but when you are told that your daughter will have special needs, you are faced with even more worries and fears. 

The support for Teija from our community from the first day she was born was amazing. We were connected with a pediatrician, a social worker, Children’s Centre Thunder Bay and immediately referred to George Jeffrey. From a medical perspective, we were very lucky;Teija was healthy, and we were discharged from hospital 3 days after she was born. She was then seen at the George Jeffrey Infant Growth and Development Clinic when she was only 1 week old. In this clinic Teija was seen by a pediatrician, a physiotherapist, an occupational therapist, a speech language pathologist and a social worker. It was explained to us that in this comprehensive clinic, the providers complete a thorough assessment all together to determine a child’s strengths and weaknesses and identify areas that need attention. Then  individual therapy can be carried out to focus on the child’s needs.                              

At first Teija was mostly followed by Dr De, the pediatrician, who ensured that she was gaining weight appropriately. When Teija was about 2 months old, we noticed that she started tilting her head to one side (referred to as a Torticollis). At this time we were seen regularly by the physiotherapist who showed us exercises, stretches and head positioning to encourage Teija to keep her head straight. Over the next few months we noticed a great improvement in her head tilt. 

Over the next four years Teija was seen in the Infant Growth and Development Clinic every three to six months. There were times, when no specific intervention was needed, and more commonly, individual blocks of therapy were set up as specific needs were identified.

When Teija ‘graduated’ from the Infant Growth and Development Clinic, she began seeing individual therapists as needed. One major milestone for Teija was starting school in September 2012. She was born in November, so she was only 3 years old when she entered JK. At this time, we worked closely with Katie O’Brien,Teija’s Occupational Therapist to help her prepare for school. Katie worked with Teija on proper hand position for holding a pencil, pre-printing skills, and other skills such as putting on a jacket and doing up a zipper. Katie also went into Teija’s classroom to observe her in this setting, and helped to adjust her chair and gave her a footrest for better positioning, as Teija was smaller than the other students in her class. Katie also helped advocate for a smaller more child friendly toilet in Teija’s classroom, an issue that not only benefitted Teija, but all the students in her class. 

As the parent of any child entering school for the first time knows, it can be an exciting, yet worrisome time. This worry, however, is greatly amplified when you have a child with special needs. George Jeffrey helped us feel that Teija was as prepared as she could be for school. We knew that she would do well. I am so proud to say that Teija far exceeded our expectations. She will be entering Grade 1 this coming  Fall.  She knows the alphabet and the sound that each letter makes. She can read sight words such as ‘the’, ‘at’ and ‘to’, and she is reading short words such as ‘dog’, ‘cat’ and ‘fox.’ She can write her name and all the letters of the alphabet. She participates actively in gym class, she can ride her bike with training wheels and you should see her throw a ball! She has quite the arm! In addition, Teija is well accepted by her peers and has a great group of friends.

It has now been five and a half years since we first became involved with George Jeffrey. Looking back at our initial visits, I can see all the amazing progress that Teija has made, thanks to the intervention that she received. It was wonderful to work with so many individuals who saw Teija for her potential, and not her disability. Each and every therapist that we worked with had Teija’s best interest at heart, and they were committed to improving Teija’s growth and development. 

It is easy to talk about all of the benefits that Teija has received from George Jeffrey, but one of the more surprising benefits was actually for my husband Brian and I. We, as a new family, received so much support from everyone at the centre. We continue to see many of the same therapists that have been involved in Teija’s care since her first visit, and we have developed friendships and support networks that are invaluable. Over the years, our family, now of 5, has been able to enjoy some of the benefits of being involved with the centre such as Family Fun Days, and the visit with Patrick Sharp and the Stanley Cup last Summer. 

I would like to sum this up by saying that every child deserves an opportunity, a chance to meet their full potential. I believe that George Jeffrey helps to make that happen, and we are grateful that Teija has been given the opportunity to reach her potential. We cannot be more proud of her. Thank you for your generous support of The Centre.  ~ by Jennifer Lawson

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