LCDD has made difference in foster child’s life

Published 8:06 am Wednesday, October 23, 2019

In 2015, my sister, Amy, moved home from Tennessee, bringing along her a foster child, Jason Smith.

Jason had originally come to live with my mother when he was four months old.  At that time, she was told that he had developed a heart condition that was not manageable, and that he would not live out the year.  Jason surprised everyone by beating the odds pronounced by his doctors, so that now, 21 years later, he is thriving.

He did not, however, escape unscathed.  He was slow to meet expected developmental milestones and, while still a toddler, he was diagnosed with autism.

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Early intervention through the DD board’s Early Childhood programs helped him to begin overcoming some of his delays, and by the time he was 10, he was able to communicate fairly well.

At that time, my sister assumed his guardianship and moved with him, first to Alaska, and later to Tennessee, where his experience in a large school with a limited special needs program was very negative.

In 2015, Amy accepted a position at Rio Grande University and moved back home, where she enrolled Jason in Open Door School.

By that time, I had retired so I assumed some of the responsibility for caring for Jason while Amy was at work.  I remember how terrified he was at the idea of returning to school. 

As a special needs student in previous school settings, he had been the object of severe bullying and he believed that this would be true again when he returned to school.

However, from the first day, he entered the Open Door School program his outlook on school, and on life, completely changed.  He found a setting where he was accepted, where he felt safe, and where he made friends.

He had teachers whose mission was to encourage and under their supervision, he has thrived.  His mantra, repeated often, has become “I love Open Door”.

This will be Jason’s last year at Open Door, and he often expresses his sense of sadness knowing this is true. 

But he also looks forward to entering the PCS program for adults, where he also has friends and where he knows staff who have been supportive in the past.

Without these programs offered through the DD Board, Jason would have a bleak future to look forward to.  Because these programs exist, he, and others like him, know they have a place to go, a place where they can feel secure and cared for.

Because of these programs, he has been encouraged to develop self-care skills, including on-the-job training through the Vocational Transition program at school and through summer work programs.  Because of these programs, he has learned to value himself and to believe in his abilities.

This fall, we voters will have an opportunity to support these very important programs for those like Jason with special needs.

A levy will appear on the fall ballot, requesting help for the continuation of these programs.  The cost for this help is small, but the need is so great.

I hope that every voter in Lawrence County will recognize this need and come out to vote to support the many members of our community who benefit from these programs, recognizing that, through the help of the DD Board, many who would otherwise have nowhere to turn can find a secure place in which to grow.

Please consider carefully how your vote can help those with special needs to become their very best.

Without your help, there is so much to lose, but with your help, for these special people, the world can change for the better.

Ruth Langer