For Susanna Schroeder, bringing her son, Elias, to Jacob’s Ladder Pediatric Rehabilitation was a revelation. The doors that they’ve been able to open and the insights their work has provided her and her family has had a tremendous impact on their lives.
Now enrolled in Jacob’s Ladder’s JL Academy, Elias is leaps and bounds ahead of where he was when he first came to the Chesterton-based not for profit that works to give hope to families of special children.
“We noticed that Elias was delayed in his speech compared to his older brother so we were kind of concerned,” said Schroeder. “My first son talked so much, so early so to have Elias, who wasn’t talking as well and as quickly, we didn’t know if it was a difference in ability or a reason to be concerned.”
The Schroeder’s then decided to have Elias tested. Afterward, they discovered that Jacob’s Ladder had the resources to address Elias’ needs and that they would be able to work with him year-round, as opposed to other organizations which only operated during the school year.
“That was one of the reasons that we brought him to Jacob’s Ladder,” Schroeder said of their ability to continue working with Elias throughout the summer.
“We got him in and he saw Therese,” she continued. “She worked with him and I felt like now I was understanding the little person that was inside my son. He was finally starting to communicate and we were discovering who he was inside.”
“Every time we came, we felt like this was a safe place where everyone cared about us, and everyone was so friendly. I had two other little ones and we would come in to wait, and everyone at Jacob’s Ladder knew what you were going through. Everybody understood and it felt like we were all going through the same thing.”
Through working with the team at Jacob’s Ladder, it was noticed that Elias, at age three, was always touching and chewing on things. Situations like going to the grocery store were very stressful for Schroeder, who was constantly dealing with hyperactivity and Elias wanting to touch everything.
Schroeder was told, by family and friends, that it was normal ‘boy behavior’ but she felt there was something more to it.
“I didn’t know why he was doing this and I had people telling me, ‘Oh, he’s just a boy,’ or ‘He’s just rambunctious,’” she said. “In my gut, I felt like it wasn’t right and it wasn’t typical.”
The therapist at Jacob’s Ladder let Schroeder know that there were some ‘sensory seeking behaviors’ going on and that it would be valuable to do a sensory profile on Elias. After the sensory profile, one of Jacob’s Ladder’s therapists let Schroeder know more about what she could do to help calm Elias and give him the appropriate input that he needed.
“We wanted to direct his inappropriate behavior to appropriate things, so I would give him something to hold or chew on while we were in the store,” said Schroeder. “The information that they gave me was like, ‘Oh! This is my kid! This is what he’s struggling with.’”
“I finally felt like I was discovering why he does, what he does. Then it became, as a parent, he’s being disciplined for some of these behaviors but now I’m understanding that he can’t help some of these behaviors.”
Initially, Elias came to Jacob’s Ladder for speech therapy but, through discovering the nature of some of the behaviors that had been observed, Schroeder became more aware of how his social skills were not developing like they should have. She decided then that he could benefit from the occupational therapy that was available through Jacob’s Ladder.
While on the waitlist, Schroeder found out about JL Academy, which provides kindergarten preparedness to kids with sensory or developmental delays through play-based cirriculum.
“He had been on the waitlist and while we waited I found out about JL Academy. That program, where 2-5 year olds were playing together to learn social skills, was exactly what we needed while we were waiting for therapy.”
“Being able to come here as a parent, I feel like I have a team. There’s a group of people who know him intimately and it’s not just me because I’m the mom, and I haven’t been as educated as the therapists here. This has taught me, at home, to notice when he needs a break. It’s helped me, all of the ideas and things that I can implement at home.”
“He’s socializing better and before there were certain situations that we would avoid. Now, we’re at the point where we can try and see instead of completely saying ‘Nope, that won’t work.’ He actually went up to a kid and said, ‘Hi! What’s your name?’ He’s getting to the age where we want him to start making friends so he’s getting there. He’s starting to understand how to be a friend.”
JL Academy’s small class sizes of 3-4 kids has allowed Elias less distractions and he is able to better attend to his learning. The equipment that Jacob’s Ladder has available meets that craving for sensory input.
“He can go jump on the trampoline first before he sits to write his name or numbers,” Schroeder described. “I feel it has helped him feel successful and enjoy learning because he isn't frustrated in that environment. It has everything he loves!”
Working with Jacob’s Ladder has also helped Elias to become more aware of how his actions can affect other people.
“I’ve seen this new side of him that has developed because he’s come here. It’s happening and there’s now a whole wide gamut of activities and a wide range of abilities that he has now.”
“It’s awesome and we love Jacob’s Ladder!” Schroeder concluded.
Donations made to Jacob’s Ladder and the JL Academy can allow for children in need to receive scholarships to participate in the program. It also gives Jacob’s Ladder the ability to purchase the materials and equipment that is so necessary for the development of children like Elias.
To find out about ways that you can help a child like Elias, and lend your time, talent or treasure to Jacob’s Ladder Pediatric Rehabilitation, visit their website at: http://www.jacobskids.org/. To make a difference and donate today, click here!