As a single mom of two in a new state, Irene was looking for childcare but didn’t know where to turn. She was familiar with Head Start from her previous hometown, so she searched online and found Southwest Human Development’s Head Start campus.

From the first intake interview at Head Start, Irene felt supported and confident in her choice. She marveled at how the staff at Head Start cared about her situation and provided resources. As part of the intake process, Irene disclosed her concerns about one of her children – Sky’s – speech and language delays. The staff provided a referral and assisted with developmental, psychological, and occupational therapy screenings. The results determined that Sky is autistic. 

“Getting the diagnosis and confirming my suspicions empowered me. I feel like an advocate for my son. Before I was overwhelmed. Now that I know what he has, it’s allowed us to accept it and embrace it,” explained Irene.


A month into Sky starting daycare at Head Start was a memorable day for Irene. That was the first day Sky didn’t cry at drop off and she experienced a feeling of relief and confidence knowing that Sky was safe, and everything was going to be ok. Sky was happy, and she went to work free of guilt. That day was a turning point for Irene and her young family.


The Heart Start staff was a major source of emotional support for Irene during the year her son was enrolled. Irene and Sky’s story demonstrated how Southwest Human Development’s Head Start program is unique in its comprehensive approach to care.


“Southwest Human Development is there to support not just the child, but the family. I’ve always been a single mom with two kids. Coming from California, I didn’t know where to start. This was our lifeline,” said Irene.


Through the support and community resources provided by Head Start, Irene was able to help Sky transition to an Autistic kindergarten program where Irene reports that he is doing well. At home, Sky is active – always running, jumping, and dancing. Irene makes it a point to create safe spaces for Sky’s active energy and to ensure he has access to quiet alone time when he needs it.