Children’s Developmental Center family-centered approach helps Eli and his little brother Cooper

Eli hasn’t had the easiest path to first grade. 

Born a micro preemie at 24-weeks gestation, Eli spent 102 days in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). Like many babies born extremely prematurely, Eli was born with underdeveloped lungs and needed a breathing tube to help him breathe. While life-saving for preemies, when it is used for long periods of time it can also cause problems with vision, eating and breathing. As a result, Eli had laser eye surgery to help prevent him from going blind. When he was finally discharged from the hospital, Eli went home still relying upon a feeding tube.

Krista and Edwin, Eli’s mom and dad, were referred to the Children’s Developmental Center at Southwest Human Development by a social worker at the hospital to help him with the developmental problems related to his premature birth. With the support of the speech and occupational therapists at Southwest Human Development, Eli was able to learn to eat and made progress with his visual motor coordination.

When Eli reached age 3, his parents started to notice that he was having other developmental problems and so they scheduled a team evaluation. Eli was diagnosed with autism and the family started receiving services using the DIRFloortime approach.  This approach focuses on social communication skills and helping children build relationships with their family and friends.

“We chose [DIR]Floortime because it was a relationship-based approach,” says Krista. “So, it’s really about meeting a child where they are and helping them develop skills at their level and through the activities that they enjoy.”

Now 7 years old, Eli has started talking and is even in a first grade general education classroom. Krista says that the family-centered approach at Children’s Developmental Center was key to helping Eli reach his developmental milestones.

“The team at Southwest Human Development was really good at reinforcing what we were already doing with Eli and encouraging us to continue doing what we were doing, how to scaffold the activities that we were already working on with him, how to include siblings with Eli and incorporate daily-life activities,” Krista says. “And that is essential for any child, but also a family because you don’t live in isolation so it has to be functional for the family.” 

Eli’s little brother, Cooper, almost 2-and-a-half years old, was also born prematurely. Cooper faced a lot of the same obstacles as Eli. He needed long-term intubation, laser eye surgery and struggled with visual motor coordination. Krista knew just who to call.

“When that happened, we knew we were going to reach out to our team at Southwest Human Development for services,” says Krista. “We wanted that same team-based, family-centered approach for Cooper that Eli had. It was the same great service and experience that we had with Eli.”

Krista credits the optimistic attitude of the therapists at Southwest Human Development for her children’s progress. Although Eli and Cooper still face some developmental hurdles, the Southwest Human Development team has been encouraging and helped show the family a way forward that works best for them and meets the unique needs of Eli and Cooper.

“One of the things I appreciated most about Southwest Human Development and the therapists that we worked with was that they were constantly helping us build our tool-set as parents to continue to support our children. It’s been a great journey.”