We Belong Here: Leah's Story

Told by her parents, Jen and Ty

Jen, Leah and Ty

We would have 100 babies if they were all guaranteed to be like Leah. As an infant, she was calm and happy-go-lucky.

At 22 weeks pregnant, the doctors told us Leah would be born with spina bifida—something we didn’t know about. It’s a disorder where some of the bones overlying the spinal cord do not fully form and fuse, so the cord remains open and damages the nerves and connecting tissue. Leah’s challenges are with her gross motor skills and mobility, but cognitively and emotionally she is the same as other kids her age.

As a baby, we had her in a neighborhood daycare where they took good care of her. Yet as her peers moved up into the toddler classroom, they kept her with the infants because they were ill equipped to care for a child with a disability. Then when she was 16 months old, they told us we had to leave and find somewhere else to go.

We just don't know what other options we would have had if St. David's Center wouldn't have taken us. We got in right away for summer session. In three short months, we saw her language and mobility flourish. She was finally alongside kids her own age. She learned how to name her emotions and was talking nonstop. She saw her friends moving and thought, "I better figure this out."

St. David's Center has a great team working together for our family. If they see things they're concerned about, they communicate with us right away. A little while ago they told us Leah doesn't want to wear her braces and had been asking to wear shoes like all the other kids. It had never dawned on us because, frankly, she doesn't need shoes, but now she won't go anywhere without them.

Before we came to St. David's Center, we had a lot of talks about what school would be like for her. We're not concerned about it at all anymore. She's spunky and loves her classroom and learning, so we think she’ll be excited to take the bus and go to school with the big kids.

While we used to worry if her peers would respond to a kid in a wheelchair and if she would be able to make friends, St. David's Center has put those fears to rest. For us, this has been an important step because it's given her the opportunity to be social and be able to feel like she's part of something. We think Leah's transition into kindergarten will be seamless.

Our fear in life was that Leah would be isolated and everyone would treat her like a porcelain doll that could break at any moment. But at St. David's Center, she plays and gets dirty on the playground like all the other kids.

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