by: Alison Jarvis, St. David's Center
At St. David’s Center, our mission is to build relationships that nurture the development of children and families. The relationship between a father figure – including a biological parent, foster parent, family member, or other supportive male role model – and a child helps lay a foundation for future relationships and growth.
As we approach Father’s Day weekend, we are taking a moment to revisit a few stories about St. David’s Center fathers and families who share their personal journey of fatherhood, and the way St. David’s Center has walked alongside them over the years. You will meet Jeff, a longtime St. David’s Center parent who most recently enrolled his daughter Cecilia in our inclusive Early Childhood Education program and Speech Therapy service; James, who stepped into the role of single parent for his son Desmond; Jorge, who along with his wife Lulu have stepped into the Autism Day Treatment program and pediatric therapies with their son Diego; and Caleb, whose family has had two children enrolled in Early Childhood Education and their son Spencer is engaged with Autism Support Services and pediatric therapies.
Jeff has been a St. David’s Center dad for two decades. He was first introduced when he was looking for a preschool for his oldest child, now 23. Thanks to an experience he had when he was young, Jeff knew he wanted to provide a more inclusive early education experience for his own child. “When I was a little kid in church school, there was a little boy there, and he didn’t have arms. He used to draw with a crayon in his toes. I’ll never forget that. I was always amazed by that experience,” he remembers. “And I thought because St. David’s helps so many different kids, of different needs and different issues, I want my kids to be in that kind of an environment where they see that there are opportunities for those kids, too.”
Little did Jeff realize that 20 years later he would return to St. David’s Center and engage with our programs and services in an entirely new way.
To read more about Jeff; his daughter, Cecilia; and their experience with St. David’s Center’s speech therapy and early education, click here.
After James’ wife died following complications during childbirth, James had to learn how to be both a dad and a mom. It wasn’t easy, and his first step was learning how to ask for help for himself and for his son, Desmond. “Desmond means everything to me. He’s my buddy. He’s my life. He’s all I got. And I’m sure glad I asked for help when I did because St. David’s Center has allowed us both to make it.” By finding the support James needed, he and Desmond are not only “making it,” they’re growing each day. As James explains, “Every day is a progression, and all I try to do is make today better than yesterday.”
Read more of James’ words here, or watch James and Desmond’s story here.
When Jorge and his wife, Lulu, first noticed changes in their son, Diego’s, language patterns, they took note but weren’t overly concerned. “He was speaking fluently,” recalls Jorge, “and then all of a sudden, he went quiet.” As part of a self-described “multi-national family” who had recently moved to the U.S. from overseas, Jorge and Lulu initially attributed Diego’s language regression to the fact that Diego heard multiple languages in his daily life, and was thus simply figuring out how best to communicate.
However, Jorge and Lulu continued to witness a gradual decline in other behaviors. Diego preferred to play by himself and began scripting, a repetitive behavior that involves reciting lines from an individual’s favorite movies, TV shows, books, etc. Diego’s increasing struggles with speech and social skills, as well as an emerging food selectivity, prompted his pediatrician to recommend an assessment for autism, which ultimately led to his diagnosis at age four. “You feel like you were hit by a truck,” recalls Jorge. “You don’t see that one coming.”
Despite going through, as Jorge puts it, the initial “phases of change” around their son’s diagnosis, Jorge and Lulu never wavered in their unconditional acceptance and support of their special son. After finding tailored services for Diego at St. David’s Center, they have watched their son grow and shine. To learn more about Jorge, Diego, and their experience with St. David’s Center’s Autism Day Treatment and occupational, speech, and feeding therapies, click here.
The theme of transformation is a recurring one in 8-year-old Spencer Kennedy’s life. When Spencer was born, he was diagnosed with Down syndrome, as well as a congenital heart defect commonly associated with the syndrome. “I remember being in the delivery room, and it was pretty clear early on that something was awry, something was amiss,” recalls Spencer’s father, Caleb, a geneticist. “I remember a desperation, not understanding this abrupt change in pretty much every expectation. It changed my professional life. It changed our personal life. It changed how we thought or expected to parent.”
Change and transformation quickly became the norm for the Kennedy family. Caleb and his wife, Heather, saw their baby undergo open-heart surgery, following which, they moved from Boston to Minnesota to be closer to family. Settled in their new home, the Kennedys enrolled Spencer in St. David’s Center early childhood education program, and they soon met the “army” of teachers and therapists that offered the love and support Caleb and Heather wanted for their son. This same “army” remained alongside the family after Spencer was diagnosed with autism. Despite a resurgence of the old fears and worries for their son, Caleb and Heather knew that St. David’s Center was ready to meet Spencer where he was and focus on the strengths of the child behind the diagnosis.
To learn more about Caleb, Spencer, and their family’s experience St. David’s Center’s Early Childhood Education, Floortime, and School-Age Autism Day Treatment program, click here.
Jul. 21, 2023
Jan. 03, 2023