| One morning, all of Kennan's big friends came to his school, and they were all in this big room. He recognized all the voices, but he still wasn't sure what they were all doing there.
"we should all introduce ourselves, so Kennan knows who's here, but we should pray before we begin." That voice was unknown to him. They were in a circle and joined hands before the unfamiliar lady spoke. Miss Heidi tentatively graspe one of Kennan's hands, and Miss Emily did the same on his other side.
"Lord, thank You for bringing Kennan to us. He is such a blessing, and we're honored that You would allow us to be Your hands and feet for him. Give us Your wisdom to design a curriculum just right for Kennan, and may You be glorified during this time." As Heidi and Emily released Kennan's hands, the same lady began to speak. They were all determined to talk at Kennan's level as much as possible.
"I'm Miss Chandra Emmersen, the principal here at Apple Valley."
"I'm Miss Janell Jacobs, Kennan's physical therapist."
"I'm Jamison Ross, and I'm so honored to be Kennan's permanent dad."
"I'm Corrine Ross, and I'm equally honored and amazed that God would bless me with the responsibility of being Kennan's mommy forever."
"Candice Goldsmith, and I'm Kennan's psychologist."
"I'm Emily James, Kennan's guardian ad litum. Kennan, that means I help Jamison and Corrine make sure you're happy and safe."
"Kennan Ross!" the computer said.
"I'm Heidi Baldwin, and I'm Kennan's biological mother, but I'm so glad Jamison and Corrine will raise him. My role is more that of a friend, but I'm so grateful to play a part in his life."
"I'm Miss Anela, Kennan's teacher."
"And I am Miss Lynnette; I am the speech/language pathologist."
"Finally, I am Miss Katie, Kennan's nurse."
"Let's start with you, Candice," Miss Chandra said.
"Kennan, you have done a super job with me. We work on showing Kennan that it is all right to share his feelings. Our long-term goal is to help Kennan achieve mental and emotional stability. The first objective might seem like a tiny step, but it is instrumental. We have to help Kennan identify his feelings, first. Then we can work on proper handling and expression of feelings. We talk through play therapy, meaning we use toys, games and art supplies as a form of expression. All the feelings, thoughts and memories are within him, even though he can't express them verbally. We can also learn something of the past with toy replicas of real life objects. Although he might not know the names of dangerous things, he can indicate which ones he recognizes. When we set up a row of objects, he identified the beer bottle, the pipe, the gun, etc. I thank God for giving him a truly connected support team. We'll all be able to work together to help him with various aspects of life, and it's just amazing that we all want to work together. That will prove to be extremely instrumental in his development and care."
"Janell?" Miss Chandra said.
"Kennan and I have had fun together as well. We do manual range of motion and stretching exercises. We also use gentle massage and warm water to help combat the muscle spasticity. Kennan just learned how to blow bubbles! We use a mobile stander so he can remain upright, but we can still move him from one place to another. The use of the stander has great health benefits, and we hope Kennan will experience those in the next few months. Our goal is to help him obtain optimum physical abilities, and we learn how to deal with limitations."
"Our goal for Kennan is to provide a positive and safe learning experience in the least restrictive environment. That has to be adjusted according to the kind of day Kennan is having. Sometimes we can put him in the stander for the majority of the day. He can experience the academic environment in an entirely new way. He can face his peers at eye level and listen to where their voices are coming from. On days when he is extremely tired, we let him take extended naps. Sometimes things fluctuate throughout the day, and we need to be flexible. In our class, Kennan is learning verbal directions when we plan: e.g. put the ball in the basket, put your hand under the table, put the toy bunny in Miss Anela's hand. We use the sense of touch for exploratory purposes. He touched mud for the first time last week, we let him play in a tub of shaving cream, we let sand trickle through his fingers, etc. Learning numeric values and grammatical parameters is put on hold. We're not even touching that yet; Kennan needs to learn about the world around him. I know that all of you, including Heidi, have helped to make this happen."
"Emily?" Miss Chandra said, after she scribbled her last note.
"Kennan's case was transferred to me when he went to live with the Ross family. I'm his guardian ad litum, which means that, because his parents do not have custody, I am his state guardian. There have been some major setbacks because of the previous foster care environments. Just as with everything else, it will take much time, patience, care and prayer to gain his trust. However, I am very pleased with how things are progressing for Kennan and the rest of the family."
"We are just thrilled to be able to help Kennan learn about all aspects of life. We already love him unconditionally, and enjoy helping him learn about the world around him," Corrine began.
"The simple tasks of helping Kennan eat, changing his diapers, or taking him for walks seem like mundane tasks. However, these, along with countless other activities, help Kennan to know what love really looks like." Jamison finished.
"I'm just so grateful for all of you," Heidi said, her eyes filling. Emily reached across Kennan and lightly touched Heidi's hand. That simple gesture gave her the courage to continue, "I can see how much you all love Kennan, and although the physical and some of the mental functions can't be undone due to the meningitis, you'll all help him reach full potential. As I said before, I'm just so thankful that I can play any role in his life. It's just amazing to see how he grows and his delight in learning the simple things. You all should have seen his bewildered expression when he touched a leaf for the first time. His face just lit up when Corrine crumbled the dried leaf in his hand. It's these simple things that make it such a joy to watch his interactions with everyone."
"I'm Lynnette, the third therapist on the care team. Right now, we're working on teaching Kennan chewing, swallowing and sucking actions. Our goal right now is to help Kennan be able to detect, chew and swallow solid foods. We have added food thickener to his pureed foods, and this seems to be helping. Next, we'll work on learning how to make sounds. I will have to make routine assessments to see if Kennan will be able to vocalize things. If not, we'll work on other techniques to communicate, such as picture boards and books, an artificial larynx, computer software, language hardware, etc. Although there is a lot of work to be done, I am happy with the way things are progressing."
"I'm the ever-present lady in the scrubs!" Katie began in a light tone, which quickly became serious. "Kennan has a lot of medical needs, so I help to coordinate all of those things. I also work with each of you whenever something new needs to be added or changed. I've been helping Corrine and Jamison become familiar with the various needs, tools and techniques. I'm thrilled with the way you all care for Kennan and come together to make his environment a safe, healthy and joyous place to be."
Although Kennan didn't understand all the big words, he did hear the vocal tones. They all sounded so happy. Mommy (corrine) had told him that they were going to have a meeting so they could all figure out how to help Kennan. They kept saying they wanted to work together, and he could tell by their voices, the time they took for him, the way they touched him, that they all cared. He was beginning to think this was a safe place to be; he was learning that these people would never abandon him.
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