Grinning ear to ear with twinkly brown eyes smiling beneath plastic blue-rimmed glasses, Carl Bowdre, 2, exudes happiness and love. His parents Angela and Steve have taught him such things, just as Easterseals’ Early Steps is teaching Carl how to grow and learn through physical, occupational and speech therapies.
Early Steps, an early intervention program operated locally by Easterseals of Northeast Central Florida, met the Bowdre family nearly as soon as they were discharged from the hospital after Carl’s premature birth and extended stay. Early Steps therapists have been the family’s source of confidence as the two-year-old continues to make impressive developmental strides.
“Carl was premature (at 25 weeks gestation) and with the down syndrome…he had (most of) the typical preterm complications,” remembered Angela.
Thus, physical and occupational therapy started very quickly after the couple arrived home with their little one.
“I remember going to the first meeting at Early Steps office,” Angela said. “Our goal always was for them to teach us as a family so we could help Carl when (the therapists) weren’t there. They have done a great job.”
Today, Carl is learning to follow commands, put things in containers, and stand and kneel. His parents are equally involved students and learning their part, too. Their focus on communicating with Carl verbally and with gestures is encouraging is ability to mimic and follow directions.
“We can really see that he’s understanding and remembering certain things,” said Angela. “Retention is a big thing. He’s starting to remember certain words. He’s showing a lot of interest in reading, too, and is paying a lot of attention.”
“His mimicking has been great lately,” added Steve.
Angela and Steve appreciate the Easterseals therapists’ teamwork approach and how they encourage their confidence.
“They always explain things even if they might not be what we want to hear,” said Angela. “The therapists redirect us in ways that are better for Carl. The growth we have seen in him has been phenomenal.”
Some of Carl’s next milestones will include eating solid foods with more texture, balancing on his hands and feet, crawling and walking.
“He’s just about to walk; (the therapists) are doing great with him,” said Steve.
Both parents encourage others to discover what Easterseals offers.
“Easterseals services are there, so use them. They’ve done nothing but help our son,” he said.
“Every time I’ve called or had a question, Jeanne Miley (Early Steps liaison) has been phenomenal,” Angela added. “It’s been amazing just to know she’s there. Easterseals can help your child, which in the end is what everybody wants.”
The Bowdre family is honored to be an Easterseals Ambassador family and spread the word about Easterseals programs. Join them for Walk With Me on April 26 in Daytona Beach. Join their team, register to walk or donate at www.walkwithme.org/daytona.