Child’s plight leads to help for Easter Seals

Draydan Gerardo and his mom, Shelley, became involved with Easter Seals of Kaua‘i about a year ago.

Last week, the Easter Seals Early Intervention program got a boost when Gerardo’s employer, the Kukui‘ula Development Co., donated a $1,000 grant to Easter Seals.

“This contribution is a reflection of Kukui‘ula’s long term commitment to our island community,” said Gini Kapali, Kukui‘ula’s community relations representative. “Equally important is the value Kukui‘ula places on supporting our employees at work as well as their involvement in the community.”

Gerardo discovered that following initial evaluations, Draydan was delayed not only in speech, but behind in other areas as well.

Easter Seals of Kaua‘i focuses on Early Intervention Services for children, birth to 3 years old, states a press release from Eileen Tweedy, the early childhood educator for Easter Seals.

“Our Early Intervention staff provides a comprehensive and coordinated effort to support infants and toddlers from birth to age three who have a developmental delay or other special need,” Tweedy said.

“We also offer support and training for their families and caregivers who are a vital part of the child’s ‘team.’”

The training can be physical, occupational and speech therapy as well as family training and care coordination, Tweedy said.

Following Draydan’s initial evaluation findings, Shelley reported her son’s frequent outbursts which she described as “like extreme temper tantrums.”

This led to an appointment with the Early Intervention Psychologist who was able to diagnose Draydan with sensory regulation issues and provided his family with recommendations as well as physical activity to support his sensory needs, Shelly said.

“We immediately saw results and we could take Draydan out in public again with no problems,” Shelley said in a letter she submitted to the Easter Seals.

Early referral is critical, Tweedy said.

Early intervention services have proven to be extremely important for children who may be behind in their development or have other conditions that may affect how they develop.

The sooner a person can start addressing a child’s special needs, the better chance the young child has of reaching its greatest potential, she said.

In addition to the recommendations made by the psychologist, Shelley said they received suggested strategies and recommendations from an occupational therapist to help Draydan maintain an in-synch, calm alert state and a balanced level of arousal for focused attention.

“Through these sessions, we received invaluable information from all of these professionals and we were able to understand and respond to our son’s needs,” Shelley said.

Tweedy said, “By focusing in on a child’s needs early on in their development, you are giving them the head start they need to keep up with their peers.”

Services are provided in the child’s home or other “natural environment”, but are also available onsite at their facility in Lihu‘e as needed, Tweedy said.

All eligible children from birth to age three who have a developmental delay, or are at risk of developing a delay, receive services at no cost to their families as part of the State of Hawai‘i Department of Health Early Intervention mandate, Tweedy said.

Shelley said they’ve noticed a huge difference in Draydan after he began participating in the Easter Seals’ Thursday Toddler program a few months ago.

“He began to learn how to follow a schedule and use his words more frequently,” she said.

“While he continues to seek the input he needs from us, he has begun to find ways to stabilize himself on his own. It is amazing to see all of the things he can do now.”

“Before attending the Toddler Program, my husband and I were worried that it would be difficult for Draydan to attend school due to his difficulties,” Shelley said.

“Through Easter Seals, we learned about the Department of Education’s Special Education preschool program and Draydan’s assessment process is almost complete.”

Shelley said she and her husband cannot imagine what the past year would have been like without Easter Seals’ help and support.

She accompanied her letter with a personal contribution to combine with that of her employer.

“It is our hope that this program will continue to provide its valuable service to Kaua‘i’s keiki and their families,” Shelley said.

Easter Seals Hawai‘i, established in 1946, is an affiliate of the National Easter Seals organization and is the largest and oldest private provider of quality services for infants, toddlers, children and adults with disabilities and their families in Hawai‘i.

For more information on the Early Intervention Program, call 245-7141, or visit the Easter Seals Web site at www.EasterSealsHawai‘i.org

• Dennis Fujimoto, photographer and staff writer, can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 253) or dfujimoto@kauaipubco.

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