After many years of struggling (and failing many times) to find appropriate care for our son, Tyler (autism, brain injury), our broker for Tyler’s waiver services, Jenny Logas and fellow special needs mom filled us in on the well-kept secret of Hand-in-Hand. Despite being very proactive and steadfast advocates for Tyler, we found great difficulty in finding an appropriate setting for daycare for Tyler. Our challenge of finding care for a child with special needs was made exponentially difficult due to Tyler’s age. Chronologically he was too old for many fine, quality programs. We don’t have family available during the daytime to help. An in-home program would not necessarily have an appropriate level of supervision or structured activities. Most people don’t offer all day programs with appropriate supervision for high school kids. And to complicate our situation even more, Tyler has a service dog.
We trusted Jenny and enrolled Tyler. We contacted Hand-in-Hand and discussed the service dog situation. To our surprise, what we expected to be a potential obstacle was anything but. There was no hesitation, no doubts, and not even the slightest suggestion that it might not work. Even though it was something new Hand-in-Hand never experienced, there was no reluctance at all. In fact, they asked only a few but very relevant questions and welcomed both Tyler and Hugo with open arms. Literally. Their first day, the staff were ready and informed and completely comfortable and prepared for “our boys.”
It took no time at all for us to feel comfortable that everything was going to go smoothly and that this program was the right fit for Tyler and our family. Never in Tyler’s life have we ever felt more comfortable leaving him in someone else’s care. Never have I not worried all day that I would get a phone call about a problem or have to find another solution because if wasn’t a good fit. Tyler made friends and talked about the things he did and the people he was enjoying his days with by name. Tyler has gone to school with kids since kindergarten that he still does not remember their names! Tyler was participating in activities that were not only age appropriate, but ability appropriate. He is provided the right level of supports and encouraged to grow and live up to high expectations. To any parent this means the world, but to our family, after the frustration, heartache, and disappointment of so many failed placements for day care, finding Hand-in-Hand meant we had a HUGE weight lifted off our shoulders.
It’s not easy to say only a few things we appreciate about Hand-in-Hand. But how the staff treat Tyler is most important to us. They accommodate his deficits and his disability without “talking down” to him or treat him like there is something wrong with him or like he is different than neuro-typcal (normal) teens. We also appreciate the willingness to “go with it” (with the service dog) and make it work. Instead of seeing it as a problem that had to be worked through before it ever happened or became a problem, they saw it as an opportunity to bring something new and different and exciting to their program. To walk in and see my son interacting appropriately with peers, remembering names and saying he has friends when he never has before, to see other kids “spooning” with and loving on Hugo—makes our hearts swell with emotions: Pride. Hope. Relief, to name a few.
We do not stop talking about Hand-in-Hand. We tell everyone how amazing of a place Hand-in-Hand is and will not stop until the entire world knows. Our experience is not a honeymoon phase. We have not had one single negative experience with any aspect of Hand-in-Hand. From enrollment, to summer program, to camp (Hugo even went to camp every day!!), to no school-days and school breaks. The office staff, the counselors, the billing...Every. Single. Aspect. Has been nothing but positive! The only regret we have is that we didn’t find the program sooner.
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