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Several years ago, I lost my job as a contract interpreter for North Carolina and my daughter, Jaslene, who was two at the time, was in day care. It was a great program, but I couldn’t afford to keep her in daycare while I looked for a new job, so I met with my Coordinator from Durham Children Development Service Agency at time and talked with her about my situation. Echo advised me to applied for Early Head Start.

She told me that Jaslene would probably qualify for Early Head Start and encouraged me to fill out the application. Just three weeks later, Jaslene was accepted into the program due to her disabilities and needs.

It has been such a blessing. Jaslene has a few developmental disabilities – she only has one ear and hears out of that ear only and she has ADHD and sensory process integration disorder. That means her brain and body do not work as well at times. – about one in 20 children has this disorder and as a result, they have problems with their motor skills, behavioral problems, anxiety, trouble focusing on tasks, and other issues.

Jaslene has been receives occupational therapy for almost 3 years. This therapy has help recognizing her body as well as pain. She has also become more aware of the functions her body has and how to control them. Another therapy she has been receiving its speech. She can now speak much clear and has learned to recognize and define different sounds. Her body and brain are coordinating better and better constantly.

Early Head Start really helped Jaslene cope with these issues. They offered her important structure, and a regular daily routine, which is very important for her. Her teachers at the time also helped worked with her goals and all her special needs. We all work as a team for the best of Jaslene. She exited the program when she turned three years old and thanks to the teacher the transitions was smooth and easy . She is now at Pre K classroom at the same place she attended Early Head Start. She will be attending Kindergarten this coming year and we are so excited.

When she was three, I became pregnant with my son Enoch. It was a difficult pregnancy for me. Luckily, I was able to turn to the people at Durham Early Head Start for the advice and support I needed.

They helped me find a doctor to provide the prenatal care I needed and a doula to help me through my pregnancy, to coach me through childbirth and even to work with me after my son was born. My doula came to my home while I was pregnant and met with me regularly to answer my questions about what I should expect, helped me come up with questions to ask my doctor during prenatal visits and after Enoch was born, she even came over to regularly check up on me and to do things like watch him while I took a shower.

When Enoch got a little older I was also able to enroll him in Early Head Start and he’s enrolled now. He is showing signs of the same disorder his big sister has – sensory process integration disorder – but I know that he’ll get the attention and help we need to help him deal with it.

Not too long ago, the job of Health Coordinator at Early Head Start opened up. Leah, the Family Services Coordinator who has helped me so much over the last several years, strongly suggested that I apply for the job.

I was very nervous to do it. I am earning my Bachelor’s degree in Psychology now, but I don’t have a college degree yet. But I filled out the application and came in for the interviews and they hired me!

I have been in the job for a month now and it’s a wonderful thing to work for an organization that you believe in, and that you know can really help people. And to be able to speak from personal experience about all the benefits Early Head Start can give kids.

I should also mention that the people at Early Head Start even encouraged and supported me in pursuing a college education. The Psychology degree I am earning will lead directly into a master’s program.

It’s so important for people to remember that programs like Early Head Start are about helping people get on their feet. They offer the support families need to help their children get a good start in life, through excellent education and daycare programs, through support for pregnant moms, through assistance with finding good education programs so that a parent can pursue her education and start a career that will allow her to support her family.

I am so grateful for Early Head Start and I know that the families I have worked with are, too. And I don’t know what any of us would do without it.

Sheila Arias is a Health Coordinator for Early Head Start in Durham, North Carolina.


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