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Sheila Arias's picture

As a mother of two, including one with special needs and a birth defect, I have seen first-hand how parents, children and society all win when families have access to high-quality affordable childcare, early learning programs, and mental health programs that take children’s social and emotional needs into account.


Several years ago I had to take my daughter, who was two at the time, out of child care because I lost my job and couldn’t afford the fees. I applied for Early Head Start, and she was accepted. It made a world of difference for her. You see, my daughter has special needs. She only has one ear, has ADHD and sensory process integration disorder, which means her brain and body do not work as well as other children’s at times.  


Through Early Head Start, the teachers and therapists worked together to give her all the support she needed. She learned to speak more clearly and define different sounds. And they provided her with an important structure and a regular daily routine. Along the way, they helped make sure she felt good about herself and built her confidence to help her address the social anxiety that comes with being different. She had a smooth transition to pre-K and is doing very well now in elementary school. 


But recently, after surgery to address her birth defect, my daughter started to experience anxiety again, and I knew we needed help. I was so fortunate to find a children’s therapy program locally that accepts Medicaid and takes the entire child into account.


Dealing with your child having emotional problems that require therapy can be huge for any parent. Therapy can come with many mixed emotions, fears and questions. This was the case for me. My daughter had received therapy in the past, but it wasn't a good experience and we weren’t satisfied with the outcome. 


So this time I wasn’t feeling very open about therapy, but I knew we needed help so my daughter could thrive. I was worried that we wouldn’t find a good, understanding therapist who would be willing to work with us without judgment. I'm sure I'm not the only one who feels this way. 


Instead of calling the prior practice, I turned to social media, asking a local parents’ group for any advice or references for therapists who specialize in addressing the social and emotional needs of children. I received a lot of responses and immediately started calling. I felt so fortunate when I found the Lucy Daniels Center—it had everything on my list. 


From the moment I called, the staff there was willing to answer all of my questions. The first time we spoke for over 30 minutes as she explained every single detail and helped set me at ease. We had a similar experience with the therapist. He spent over two hours on our first appointment, and I never felt rushed. The therapist took his time and really explained how the center worked and, most importantly, he told me how it would work for my child and the expectations. Nothing would be a surprise.


I left that appointment with homework and I had to complete many pages online about my child. At first I thought this was a little overwhelming, but as I got more into the questions it became clear to me how it important it was to understand my child and for her therapist to know her. 


My child meets with her therapist once a week and I do as well. This is a team effort, and I feel extremely happy to see much improvement in her emotional behavior as well as in school. I feel very comfortable with the therapist, and I have never felt blamed or judged about my parenting skills. The biggest satisfaction is knowing how much my daughter likes going there. There’s never any argument about it because the therapist makes sure to meet my child where she is.  


Since my child has Medicaid, we are able to afford her therapy. Dealing with the Medicaid system for mental health support can be challenging, but luckily The Lucy Daniel Center works with the program to give the best to the children they serve.


Every child deserves the opportunity to feel understood, supported, and accepted for who they are.  And every child deserves to be in a learning community that prepares them for life by addressing their social and emotional needs, as well as their academic ones. I’m glad my daughter has found the support she needs, and I hope all the other parents and children who are searching will find programs that meet their needs as well. When we invest in the whole child, our kids will succeed and our society will be better for it.

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