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There is this very rare and unique combination of emotional intelligence but also professional rigor [at St. David's Center] that are wrapped together in this amazing ability to apply the best knowledge and the best techniques with this fully engaged project of loving a child who has potential, and whose potential might be totally unique in every way.
Heather, Spencer's mom

When the Kennedy family moved from Boston back to Minnesota, they knew they wanted their sons Quinn and Spencer, who was born with Down Syndrome, to attend St. David’s Center’s Early Childhood Education program. Not only was it important for Spencer, then 16 months old, but they saw the value it would have for big brother Quinn as well. “We wanted it to validate Quinn’s family, his life, and the kinds of experiences that he was having outside of school,” said their mom Heather. It also meant that Spencer was able to receive highly coordinated care. “St. David’s is rare in that it has all the things Spencer needs in one place,” explains Heather.

A few years later, Spencer was also diagnosed with Autism. St. David’s team identified Family Floortime therapy—a multidisciplinary team approach that maximizes communication, interaction, and learning—as a therapeutic resource just before COVID started. Because St. David’s Center quickly launched telehealth at the start of the pandemic, Spencer was able to participate in Floortime with his family virtually in his home. Heather shares, “That ended up meaning that Spencer got to have the eyes of all these wonderful practitioners in his environment where he lives, and it gave us an opportunity to really learn to speak Spencer’s play language and to adjust as a family so that we can engage him … that was a real gift … It was also really hard work, but the things that have changed in our family because of it are tangible.”

Spencer, now in second grade, continues to build skills in St. David’s School Age Autism Day Treatment program. He and his family are thriving, enjoying their family time in new ways — dancing with mom during dishes and family game nights!

After having their first daughter Ana Maria, Beatriz and Jeff knew they wanted her to go to St. David’s Center. When it was time to find childcare for Ana Maria, Beatriz and Jeff sought out St. David’s Center because of the reputation of gifted early childhood teachers and because it aligns with their values of celebrating children of all abilities. “The teachers are so loving,” exclaims Beatriz.

When Ana Maria’s little sister Cecilia was born, Beatriz and Jeff were surprised to discover she had severe hearing loss. After rigorous testing, they learned Cecilia was a perfect candidate for cochlear implants. With language learning and development in its prime in the first few years of life, it is important to have the surgery as early as possible. With the onset of COVID, Cecilia’s surgery was delayed nearly six months. After two weeks of healing from surgery, Cecilia went back to her audiologist to connect and turn on the external receiver, hearing her first words at the age of 13 months. At 16 months, Cecilia was old enough to attend the St. David’s Center Early Childhood Education program. And now at 20 months, Cecilia is starting Speech Therapy at St. David’s Center, too.

Cecilia is full of smiles, and her communication is already improving. Beatriz and Jeff are grateful that Cecilia can receive her Speech Therapy during the course of her day in childcare. “When I think of St. David’s Center, I think of how everyone is extremely qualified. It’s the real deal. Once [children] are in, they are set for the future,” shares Beatriz.

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