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In Mom's Own Words: Sienna's Early Intervention Journey

In Mom's Own Words: Sienna's Early Intervention Journey
Sienna smiling by fountain in Nimick Family Therapeutic Garden at The Children's Institute
June 28, 2021
Together, amazing things happen.

The Early Learning Institute (teli) officially became an affiliate of The Children’s Institute of Pittsburgh in November 2020. For decades, teli has provided specialized programs and individualized early intervention services for children with developmental delays through physical health, developmental, and social work services. Many children walk through the doors at The Children’s Institute having benefited from early intervention services. This affiliation is an important step for both organizations, as it increases the range of families and expands the breadth of services provided for children from birth to age 21.

Having received services through both The Children's Institute and teli, mom Shannon Striner shares her daughter Sienna's early intervention journey in her own words:
 
Recently, I was on a call with moms that have children with disabilities under the age of 2. I, myself, have a 4-year-old daughter with a diagnosis of Down syndrome. The mothers were expressing their concern over graduating from the Early Intervention program. It takes me back to those very early days of my daughter, Sienna’s life. It was an emotional time. I hadn’t known about Sienna’s diagnosis and I was struggling to come to grips with our new reality. 

When Sienna was just six weeks old, teli early intervention services entered our orbit for evaluations. Come back in time with me. 

I sit in my living room, which is now full of strangers, thinking this must be some nightmare that I will wake up from. I see my three-year-old daughter, Haley, on the steps playing quietly by herself. Tears fill my eyes. Is this her life now? Will she have to sit on the sidelines while strangers come in our house and examine this baby?

I observe as they do test after test on my newborn. They move her arms and legs which instantly flop down. They make loud noises to see if she responds. They ask to watch her nurse to see if they can determine why she won't latch. I was up all night with her trying desperately to get her to breastfeed. I am severely sleep deprived, and if I am honest, I am still in a state of shock. I cannot do this. Everyone keeps telling me that I can, but I am not sure I believe them. I feel utterly alone.

The therapists and coordinator leave after a couple hours with their recommendations for which therapies we need to begin. How can a newborn need therapy? The therapists did their best to reassure me. They tell me this will become our new normal and that it won't always feel this overwhelming. I still want to run out the door and never look back.

Fast forward to now. Those strangers I was talking about.... Well, they certainly are not strangers now. They became a crucial part of our family. They provided resources, insight, and support at every turn. They were a vital piece of our puzzle. It took some time to put together our team. And, oh what a team we had. Sienna received nutrition support, developmental therapy, physical therapy, occupational therapy, and speech therapy all through teli. 

Because of these therapists, we overcame obstacles that seemed unsurmountable. Milestones were hit and celebrated weekly in our living room. Over time, I realized that those therapists weren’t just there for Sienna. They were there for me. I never could have done it without them. I broke down in front of them many times and they were there to lift me up. So, as I listen to these mothers talking about the worries, they have over leaving early intervention, I understand their anxiety. 

The Children’s Institute was there for us during that transition and I tell these moms to consider adding outpatient services as they go through this challenge. They will still have so much support and the next phase of this journey won’t seem quite so overwhelming. We are so grateful for everything the Children’s Institute has done for our family, so when I heard they were working with teli now, it just made sense to me. Our two greatest support systems on this journey combining services and resources! What could be more amazing?
                       
Learn more about teli early intervention services or give to make an impact by providing more care to kids and families like Striner's. With our expanding reach, you can help ensure each child and family receives the care they need.
 

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