Exceptional Families Raising Extraordinary Kids

. November 1, 2016.
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These local families are making a difference in the community through their amazing kids and their big hearts! Meet them and find out about their stories.


The Faisant Family

Parents: John and Antonia
Children: Mikayla, 10, and Julien, 8
Special needs considerations: Mikayla has cerebral palsy, epilepsy, autism, and developmental delays.

How did you realize that your child had special needs?
We found out when she was born. She was in the ICU for 12 days, and at that time I began to learn more about her conditions.

Where was the first place you went for more information? Help Me Grow was a huge help to me, especially in the beginning. Later, I started Parent 2 Parent, a special needs support group. I really had a desire in my heart to meet with other parents going through similar things.

What are some ways that your child needs extra help at home and school?  Her classroom has two aides, a teacher, and only five students, so she’s in a good place right now. Sometimes we have little struggles, and we have experts that help us when we need it.

Are there any local organizations that have been helpful?
We love being involved in the Special Olympics. Mikayla can learn new skills there and be introduced to new things. She also has great music therapy classes from Amy Foley at Heartstring Melodies.

What is something special that do you do for yourself/your family to cope when things get difficult? We rarely have time alone, but when we do, we usually go out to dinner. We recently went to Coffee Amici and listened to a band, which was great.

What’s one piece of advice for other families with a special needs child? What keeps me going is my faith. I pray a lot. Also, I reach out to other parents going through the same thing. A support network is very important!

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The Roberts Family

Parents: Joey and Emilee
Children: Brayden, 10, Aurora, 8, and Chaz, 6
Special needs considerations: Autism (Brayden), Sensory Processing Disorder (Aurora and Chaz), ADD (Aurora)

How did you realize that your children had special needs? We noticed social and developmental delays in our oldest, so he was diagnosed by a pediatrician. We were introduced to SPD when our daughter had problems with fabrics and sounds. And her struggles with comprehension and focus led to the ADD diagnosis.

What are some ways that your child needs extra help at home and school? We homeschool all three, to give them individualized attention based on their needs. They all need help in unique ways with various skills. 

Are there any local organizations that have been helpful? It’s been great to plug into the Parent2Parent group. We also love the special sensory classes offered at Awakening Minds Art.

What is something special that do you do for yourself/your family to cope when things get difficult? My husband and I take a date night at least once a month. When you have a special needs family it is easy to get caught up in all that is going on, but it’s very important that we invest in our marriage.

What’s one piece of advice for other families with a special
needs child?
Trust your instincts. If you’re still seeking a diagnosis, keep seeking. If your child needs therapy/services, keep pushing forward for them. Plug in to helpful resources and don’t be afraid to ask for help. We’re our kids’ biggest advocates and nobody knows them better than we do.

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The Phillips Family

Parents: Kelby and Brittany
Children: Dominic, 14, Drew, 8, Lochlyn, 7, and Logan, 2
Special needs considerations: Logan has down syndrome, cerebral palsy, epilepsy, congenital heart defect, and brain damage from a stroke.

How did you realize that your child had special needs? We found out about the CHD during pregnancy. They are common in down syndrome, so we had an amniocentesis to confirm that.

Where was the first place you went for more information? Help Me Grow has been an unending source of support and resources, providing therapy, help with insurance claims, and loaning important equipment that we need. 

What are some ways that your child needs extra help at home? Communication and mobility are very difficult, and Logan is also tube-fed. We have a set schedule to make sure everything happens when it should.

Are there any local organizations that have been helpful? BVHC & Dr. Cheryl Huffman, Help Me Grow, and the local Parent 2 Parent support group have been amazing!

What is something special that do you do for yourself/your family to cope when things get difficult? We like to go to movies at the drive-in. Movie theaters are hard, but at the drive-in we can control the environment. The older kids are involved in soccer, go kart racing, and gymnastics.

What’s one piece of advice for other families with a special needs child? Remember that no matter what the special need is, your children are still more alike than they are different. Don’t concentrate on what they can’t do, but instead focus on what they can do.

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The Zeller/Dunn Family

Parents: Pat Zeller and Robert and Mary Dunn
Names and ages of children: Patrick, 20, Alex, 18, Erin, 24, Evan,23, and Chelsea, 26
Special needs considerations: Patrick, autism

How did you realize that your child had special needs? When he was 2, we thought he might be deaf because he never looked when you called his name. He had tubes put in his ears but he was still in his own world and not interested in engaging with others.

Where was the first place you went for more information? It was a collaborative effort of the school, doctors, therapists and family that worked hard for his future and success.

What are some ways that your child needs extra help at home and school? Patrick needs to be supervised for safety and to stay on task.

Are there any local organizations that have been helpful? Dr. Cheryl Huffman from the Caughman Clinic has been a great resource and support for us. Gliding Stars of Findlay has been instrumental for Patrick to help with physical, emotional, and social goals. Miracle League Baseball has been a great confidence builder and a lot of fun for Patrick.

What is something special that do you do for yourself/your family to cope when things get difficult? We like to go camping, do outdoor activities, and visit the zoo.

What’s one piece of advice for other families with a special needs child? Stay consistent and be open to trying new things. Change is inevitable so be flexible, because anything is possible with faith. It’s a joy and honor to be the parent and advocate so make your mind up early to enjoy the journey.