Our son, Flynn is on the autism spectrum. He only had a handful of words by the age of three and didn’t like to play with other children, He got angry a lot because he couldn’t express himself and he wouldn’t play with us. Sometimes, he avoided us completely. We knew he needed a preschool that offered therapies and support, so we came to The Starfish Academy at The Florida Center. We weren’t sure how he would do because he was the only child with severe eating and sensory issues, and he was non-verbal. When we first enrolled him, he would just cry, he couldn’t hold a crayon and he had to be fed. In just a few short months, Flynn has blossomed because of mental health, speech, feeding and occupational therapies. Being in a stable environment with amazing teachers has also really made a difference. Flynn is now clapping and laughing along with the songs in circle time and we are beyond excited! –Flynn’s mom, Sarah.
Shaylee was born with some serious medical issues, and at the age of three, was diagnosed with autism. As she got a little older, her challenges began to change and she wasn’t able to express her feelings. This past year, Shaylee started lashing out and her tantrums were becoming more frequent and uncontrollable. Sometimes, they would last for several hours and she would bang her head against the wall or say that she wanted to die. To hear that from your 7-year-old is something you can’t even wrap your mind around. She was seeing a psychiatrist and was on medicine, but she wasn’t getting any behavior support. Her dad and I felt helpless when we reached out to The Florida Center. With the help of a mental health therapist, Shaylee has made remarkable progress, and a lot of that is due to the parental support we’ve received. The therapist has given us tools to help Shaylee help herself and now she is learning to calm herself down. She still has meltdowns, but they are short-lived. Shaylee is also learning to express affection. When we started therapy, she wasn’t affectionate at all. But now she will say she loves me, and recently she just curled up into my lap and just sat there. To be able to touch my daughter and hold her and love her is a gift that The Florida Center has given our family. – Shaylee’s mothere, Charlene
I felt like I would die the day I found out my baby boy wouldn’t be coming home from the hospital because of my substance abuse during pregnancy. He stayed in the neonatal Intensive Care Unit for a month to cope with withdrawal symptoms. I had many different thoughts running through my head, but my husband and I both had our hearts and minds set on one thing, we would do whatever it took to get our son back home. We were accepted into a new program in Sarasota County called Early Childhood Court. We received support from a whole team of people including our case worker, substance abuse counselors, a Gaurdian Ad Litem, and the foster parents caring for our son while we got better. We also attended weekly classes taught by an infant mental health therapist at The Florida Center. We made it through this process successfully because we had a wonderful, strong support system that never once discouraged us. We now have our son home permanently and we are excited for the future! –A Grateful Family
My son Christian was born more than three months prematurely and given a 30 percent chance of survival with less than a 5 percent chance of leading a healthy, normal life. The thoughts of him spending months in the NICU were overwhelming. And even worse, how would we care for him when he was finally able to go home? I didn’t know at that time, but the support I would receive from the Healthy Families program would be instrumental in the ongoing health and well-being of my son and our family. Healthy families provided our family with more than I could ever have imagined; insight into parenting a micro-preemie, dealing with hundreds of doctors’ appointments, and patience and understanding to help my son conquer the difficulties he faced. Christian’s behavioral and learning challenges would have been impossible to handle without our family support worker. She came to our home and saw first-hand what we were doing and helped us make adjustments to better serve his special needs. Healthy Families gave me the strength to face these challenges with patience and acceptance. Thanks to the many hands involved, Christian has become an amazing, healthy, happy boy who defies all the odds. He will be going to kindergarten next year with all of his preschool classmates. –Christian’s mother, Emiline.