It’s a big milestone for a little guy.
Clay Wheeler recently celebrated his third birthday and has transitioned out of the Ottawa County Board of Developmental Disabilities’ Early Intervention program into a preschool setting.
The Port Clinton tot has come a long way since being diagnosed with autism in March 2012, when he was 2 years old. Though devastated at the time, with information and support, his parents Nicole and Josh have grown to accept the diagnosis and are looking forward to watching Clay grow and progress.
Clay received occupational and speech therapy through the Ottawa County Board of DD’s Early Intervention program. At first, Nicole and Josh were apprehensive about putting their child into this program; they didn’t want anything to be “wrong” with their child.
The team made visits to the Wheeler home once a week for 30 minutes – something that the family had to get used to, Nicole said, adding that as time went on, Clay got used to the visits and knew when they showed up it was time to play.
“Clay’s Early Intervention team (members) were all amazing with him,” Nicole said. “It’s an amazing transformation.”
Through the months, Clay has learned to put puzzle pieces in the correct spot, drop coins in a small slot, move toy cars properly and sort shapes into the right spaces.
Every therapist that Clay has worked with has helped her little boy become the smart little man he is today and she is so thankful, Nicole said. Currently, he is adjusting well to preschool where he attends four days a week and receives therapy there, as well.
Clay’s parents said the most rewarding part of raising a child with a disability is when he learns something new, it’s such a wonderful time. “Sometimes it takes him a while to learn something new and when he finally does it after trying and trying, it is so gratifying to see him smile when we shout, ‘Yay!’” Nicole said.
Her advice to parents who are beginning the journey is to never give up. “Never stop fighting for your child. Never stop asking questions. Never listen when someone tells you that your child may never get there or your child may not catch up. Don’t lose hope. Don’t be afraid. You are your child’s advocate.
“If you have concerns about your 0-3 year old child’s development, you should contact Early Intervention right away…don’t wait,” she added.
Early Intervention aims to identify and serve children under the age of 3 with developmental delays and disabilities, as provided for under the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). The board collaborates with parents, doctors, hospitals, child care providers and other community agencies to identify children with existing developmental delays, or those with medical diagnoses with a high probability of delay.
Parents with concerns regarding their child’s development can have their infant or toddler evaluated by an interdisciplinary team at absolutely no cost. Children are evaluated for delays in the areas of adaptive, cognitive, communication, physical, and social-emotional development using appropriate diagnostic tools.
Should intervention be deemed necessary, individualized services are provided to the child and family through a Service Coordinator who guides the family through every aspect of the process, from program entry until the child transitions out by age three.
Early Intervention can be contacted at 567-262-3141.
Three-year-old Clay Wheeler, diagnosed with autism last year, has been working with Ottawa County Board of Developmental Disabilities’ Early Intervention team members and is now graduating into a preschool setting.