As a parent, Derrah Gousie often wondered ‘Will my child ever talk? Is she ever going to say I love you?’
These questions were ones that ran through the mind of Derrah, mother to Ceceila- who recently graduated from KDC’s Attleboro Early Intervention (EI) Program. Cecelia, who is almost four-years-old, was diagnosed with Down syndrome and referred to KDC’s Attleboro EI Program as an infant. While there, she worked with a diverse team who focused on physical therapy, occupational therapy and finally her speech.
Speech proved to be a challenge early on for Cecelia, but not one that was impossible.
“My husband Matt and I knew that she wasn’t going to get this overnight,” said Derrah. “We continued to plug away until we saw success, small improvements even- and ensured that she was taking it at her own pace.”
Shortly afterwards, it was determined that Cecelia needed different tools to be successful, and that is when Cecelia started to use sign language and exceled at it. Once she mastered sign language, she began to pay close attention to facial expressions and often watched lips- and even began to whisper words and sentences.
And so did her Speech and Language Pathologist, Liz Hammerski, who has been working at KDC’s Attleboro EI Program for over 27 years.
“It was obvious that at the beginning she had a lot to say and she wanted to have a voice,” said Liz. “She had communicative intent and picked up on sign language so quickly and her language exploded.”
But Liz reminded Cecelia’s parents that Down syndrome expectations are very individualistic. In Liz’s experience, some children enter the school district using primarily sign language as their main form of oral output, while she has seen only 2-3 children begin to use some words.
“But Cecelia was different. She is one of the highest achieving children with Down syndrome that I have ever worked with,” said Liz. “Her parents are always one step ahead… they work together seamlessly- it takes a village to raise a child, and it’s amazing when you have a village like that.”
Now Cecelia’s speech is so clear, and considered remarkably advanced than others with down syndrome who are much older than her.
“Because of her speech team, Cecelia has a bright future ahead and that truly is because of the support she received at KDC’s Attleboro EI Program, they were her biggest cheerleaders,” said Derrah.
Even after graduating from the Attleboro EI Program a year ago, they are still a driving force in Derrah and Matt’s life. They continue to use many of the teaching and therapy techniques in their every day life with Cecelia, that they learned from KDC.
“Parenting is hard regardless. There is no playbook. Things are going to be hard,” said Derrah. “But I don’t compare my daughter to any other child- she is her own person. When she reaches a milestone, I don’t call my friends, because chances are their child already hit that milestone. I call her therapist, because they understand how important this achievement is- we celebrate every success together.”
And one of those milestones is the ABC’s. Cecelia can now recite the full alphabet- something that seemed impossible before KDC came into her life. And she can even count all the way to 15.
“I can not wait to come home and see her every single day… and to see that one little thing that she did today, that she didn’t do two days ago,” said Derrah. “She truly is the gift that keeps on giving.” -Derrah Gousie, Cecelia’s mom.