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“As we look forward to our daughters’ futures, we know that these first years at Capitol School have provided them with a foundation of positive reinforcement; love and nurturing that will benefit them forever.”

Linda
Capitol School Success Stories
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Maddie

 
 

When Maddie was two, I asked her pediatrician if there was something to worry about because she didn’t talk. She said a few words clearly, but didn’t really “use” words. She didn’t call me “mommy” or answer to her name. She was very much in her own little world. I was surprised to hear the next several questions the doctor asked, “Did Maddie show empathy, engage in pretend play, and make eye contact with her father or me?” I remember thinking, “She thinks Maddie is autistic” and my heart just dropped.

Maddie began working with an Early Childhood tutor and a speech-language pathologist. We were living in Houston at the time and thought we were being very aggressive with therapy. Boy did we have a lot to learn!

Just before Maddie’s third birthday, HISD did a full evaluation on her. At that time, we had a brand new baby (Livvy, now 5 ½ and in Level II) and were planning a move to Austin. I remember just trying to hold it together as they told me Maddie would be labeled autistic and would qualify for full time benefits from HISD. We thought Maddie had progressed so much that she would not qualify for any therapy. It was a shock that they suggested further evaluation. I left that meeting so very low. Would my precious little girl ever talk to me? Would she call me “mommy?” I was terrified of what the next evaluation would reveal.

Fortunately, it revealed hope. We were told so many positive things about Maddie. The label of autism was clarified. Maddie’s speech delays were so severe that she was clearly on the PDD spectrum. What the school district saw as poor eye contact and disinterest in social interaction was seen by this doctor as behavior indicative of a child who didn’t really understand what was being said to her and didn’t know how to communicate. The social desire was there, Maddie just didn’t have the tools necessary to express it.
When we moved to Austin, our main goal became finding the perfect place for Maddie. I began to ask everyone I met if they knew of a therapist, a school or program that would benefit Maddie. We began with AISD, but soon I was referred to Capitol School.

Becky Stark, The CSA receptionist at that time, became my lifeline to hope. After hearing about the school, I knew that was where Maddie needed to be. I was told a new Language Stimulation Class would be starting soon. Maddie was already attending AISD in the mornings. The difference between the two classes was night and day. One was dark, a bit too crowded, and just made me sad. CSA was bright, full of hope and energy and Maddie clearly loved it there. I remember driving up to the school to pick her up one day and seeing her on the playground. The setting was so perfect I remember thinking, “This could be a commercial!” Maddie was being pushed on the swing by one of her loving teachers and the joy on her face was so evident that I knew there was no better place for Maddie.

She entered Level I in the fall of 2001. In just the fall semester, with the loving guidance of her teachers, Maddie went from speaking gibberish with just a few echoic words, not being able to request a preferred drink, and nowhere near potty trained, to a 4-year-old little girl who could socially communicate and was fully potty trained. Finally, after all the tears and uncertainty on my part, my beautiful daughter could tell me where it hurt and I could finally help her. Through the spring, Maddie’s pretend play blossomed and she developed several close friendships with peers that still exist today. It’s almost hard to describe the growth Maddie experienced in those months. Basically, Capitol School introduced us to our child. We found out who she was because she could finally tell us her wants and her fears, and we reveled in her growth and happiness.

At the end of Level II, we took her to the UT Speech and Hearing Center for another evaluation. I was very nervous to hear the results and was elated to learn Maddie was now ranking within “normal” ranges for receptive and expressive language. I was told if I didn’t have all the documentation of the multiple tests showing just how severe Maddie’s language delays were, they would never have believed she could have come that far in so short a time. Maddie’s continued progress through Levels 3, 4, and 5 have given her such a wonderful, well-rounded experience. Her social language comes so naturally now and we are very proud of her accomplishing (and sometimes exceeding) so many of her academic goals. CSA has provided the most loving and safe place for Maddie and her little sister, Livvy, to grow into their own with amazing self-confidence. As we look forward to our daughters’ futures, we know that these first years at Capitol School have provided them with a foundation of positive reinforcement; love and nurturing that will benefit them forever.

–Linda