Horizons helps Grand County families with special needs
December 4, 2008
The Eike home is welcoming to guests, with children’s holiday art work posted in the window. In the entryway stands a December garden ” tall stalks of sunflowers made out of construction paper stuck to the wall.
By today’s standards, the Eike family is large: six children plus mom and dad.
The eldest, Patrick, age 10, down to the twins Kimber and Kendra, ages 4, surround little Matthew like a sibling cocoon.
They compare notes about what their baby brother, born with Down syndrome, enjoys doing, such as watch movies, leaf through books, play “Ring around the Rosy” and “Wheels on the Bus.”
Matthew, 2, mostly communicates by signing, his parents Mark and Rori explain.
The family is learning the language along with him.
Horizons speech therapist Devan Williamson and occupational therapist Shay Markle have been working with Matthew since he was 5 months old, when the family moved to Kremmling.
“We spent a lot of the last year teaching him to walk, and now he’s running and climbing,” Markle said.
Matthew spends time with therapists every week to work on early learning skills, such as sorting objects and communicating. Since all the children are home-schooled, the sessions are young Matthew’s chance to be a student.
“And mom is wonderful with following through with the therapies at home,” Markle said.
The fact that Matthew has so many siblings is helpful to his development. “Siblings are a huge motivator, so Matthew has a lot of motivation,” Markle said.
Mark and Rori had not known about their son’s developmental delay until he was born. A nurse informed them that their baby’s low muscle tone and certain other features indicated Down syndrome. “We didn’t know much about it,” Mark said.
The family subsequently was connected to the Mile High Down Syndrome Association for services, which proved very helpful, Rori said.
Then Mark, who works for the Colorado Department of Transportation, was promoted from his position in Arvada to highway supervisor for the Kremmling and Rabbit Ears area.
“Moving to a rural community, I was concerned,” Rori said about leaving the network of care they’d built around their son.
But soon, the family made contact with Grand County’s Horizons based in Granby, a service that works in partnership with families and communities to provide opportunities for those with developmental disabilities.
The discovery was a relief, Rori said.
“These guys are way better,” she said about the therapists who now visit Matthew.
They seem to have more time for their child than what they experienced in the metropolitan area, she said.
The Eike family is encouraged by Matthew’s progress.
“I think most people have a misconception about Down syndrome,” Mark said.
“People assume that they’re developmentally challenged, which they are, but really they’re just a little slower. But if you work with them, you can bring them up to another level.”
Surrounded by so much activity among his brothers and sisters who keep him entertained, little Matthew can’t help but smile.
A tough case to diagnose
Six-month old Lena has bright eyes captivated by the people in the room as she sits on her mommy’s lap.
She wears cherry-striped tights and shares happy coos with mom and her little sister Thayden, 3, who after performing acrobatics on the couch, brings Lena her favorite “broccoli” toy.
It’s the home of Toni and Chance Harms in Hot Sulphur Springs, a place where Lena has experienced encouraging strides during her young life.
Just the other day, the baby rolled over for the first time. “We were actually really excited,” Toni said, “because she actually should have done that at 2 or 3 months.”
Lena was born developmentally premature at Yampa Valley hospital in Steamboat Springs. Born at 9 months gestation, the baby had not yet fully developed full-term.
From the start, the mother of three knew that “something just wasn’t right” with her newborn.
Lena entered the world with immature nervous and digestive systems comparable to a baby two months premature.
Since her birth, “We’ve talked to every doctor possible,” Toni said about the baby’s difficulty consuming foods. Twice monthly, Lena has been taken to doctor visits in Denver. Facilities such as the Children’s Hospital have taken every test possible to pinpoint Lena’s problems related to sluggish metabolism. Her parents are anxious to get answers about why the baby is delayed, but all they can do is wait.
As a newborn, Lena would fall asleep before sufficient nursing, causing her parents to worry that she wasn’t obtaining enough nourishment.
At three weeks, Lena was hooked to feeding tubes and oxygen monitors at Children’s Hospital. The baby was also thought to be blind during earlier weeks. She later gained sight.
“We’re pretty happy with the way she is catching up,” Toni said.
But her troubles with keeping down food and battling low weight continue. “We tried syringe feeding, bottle feeding… We tried everything,” Toni said.
And up until just one month ago, the baby had been on oxygen, something she’d lived with since birth.
Winter Park’s Peak Pediatrics doctors recommended Horizons to the Harms.
Therapists visit the residence once a week to provide assistance with Lena’s feeding and motor skills. When it was discovered that Lena has acute skin sensitivities, Horizons therapists also helped the family change out household lotions and soaps to gentler products.
Through Horizons, the family also gets help paying for gasoline and expenses for hospital trips to Denver.
“They’re a wonderful family,” said Horizons Occupational Therapist Shay Markle. “They’re very supportive of each other. Any suggestion made, they act on it immediately. They just want what’s best for their children.”
” Tonya Bina can be reached at 887-3334 ext. 19603 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.