Our Family’s Gratitude
Our story with UCP began when my son, Nolan, started the integrated pre-school program right after turning two years old. We had noticed some slight behavioral/communicational differences and his physician said he needed more socialization; therefore, I was elated to get the call from UCP that there was an opening after being on their waiting list for so long. UCP was recommended to me by a co-worker, and I put Nolan’s name on their waiting list right after he was born. It was meant to be.
At first, Nolan had extreme difficulties separating. His UCP teacher worked with me to devise a new schedule for him that allowed us to increase his time with the class as he grew more tolerant. His teachers were very patient and kind as they guided Nolan and the rest of us through a very challenging first quarter. At the first parent teacher conference, his teacher recommended our family reach out to Missouri First Steps to see if they had any services that could help Nolan with the learning barriers he seemed to be experiencing. Kim, the UCP director, met with me and answered my questions; at the time, I felt a lot of worry and apprehension and it was wonderful to have someone experienced and reassuring available.
Nolan’s developmental delays and communication challenges qualified him for services with Missouri First Steps and we began a new, unexpected journey. Our First Steps therapist, Mrs. Penny, began working closely with both our family and Cindy at UCP. The fact that Cindy and Mrs. Penny could work together so well to hear what Nolan could not formally say helped him set and reach many goals that year.
Right before Nolan turned three, he received an autism diagnosis. He began the 2020 school year in the UCP SPED classroom four days a week with Mrs. Ruby, Miss Colynn, and Mrs. Rita. Their daily messages helped reassure me that Nolan was in the right place. Mrs. Ruby started working with him on many things including socialization and task completion. He began receiving additional services in the forms of OT with Mrs. Cassie & Mrs. Mitzi, ST with Mrs. Robin, and ABA with Mrs. Penny. From the start, the UCP classroom staff and therapists all met us with a welcome approach. To them, it did not matter how a child learns; what mattered is that the child is encouraged to never stop trying – this was evident in the detailed quarterly updates they all provided. They are all currently helping to prepare Nolan for the future by nurturing and appropriately challenging him with several goals geared toward setting him up for success in a typical classroom. These gifted human beings truly believe people are not disabled by the disabilities they have; they are able by the abilities they have. I strongly believe Nolan would not have had such amazing and rapid success without the benefit of the dedicated cumulated talents of the UCP staff and therapists mentioned above. They have all powerfully touched our lives.
Nolan started off with a lot of receptive language but no conventional expressive communication. This grew when he expanded to communicating with pictures. Nolan is almost four now, and recently, his vocabulary has exploded! We are learning so much about him as a person, which is something other people might take for granted. He is finally able to verbally express his wants, needs, likes, and dislikes because he is now able to put the words together to answer questions and have conversations with us. He is amazing us every day with new sensory, motor, and verbal accomplishments resulting from steadfast work stemming from the knowledge of what is possible when you focus on what could be instead of what is. We are so optimistic to see what rewards next year with UCP brings!
I find it hard to put our gratitude into words, but I am so honored to be able to write this to allow others to share in our experience. I would like to tell UCP thank you for putting us in touch with the resources we needed when we needed them. Thank you all for allowing your classrooms to be a place where my son feels safe enough to learn and grow. Thank you to Nolan’s team of therapists and teachers for your patience, understanding, and for taking the time to answer my questions to allow the educating of our family as well as our child.
To whom it may concern, I wholeheartedly recommend UCP to any families that want to expose their children to a place where acceptance is encouraged and practiced daily. It takes a very special group to see and share that every child is gifted in their own way.