Jackie Rama and her husband, Paul, did what almost all expectant parents do at some point during their pregnancies. They went for a routine doctor visit and an ultrasound to learn the gender of their unborn child. The Irvine couple already had two healthy children: a 7-year-old daughter and a son, age 5. They were looking forward to adding another little one to their family.
But the Ramas’ world was about to change.
“The words out of the perinatologist’s mouth were, ‘There is definitely a problem,’” says Jackie. “The right side of the baby’s head was three times the size of the left.” Other tests revealed that their baby daughter had no Corpus Callosum (it connects the two parts of the brain), among other maladies.
“I was shattered,” Jackie says. “I was completely blindsided. We thought we were going to find out the gender of the baby and that’s what we got.”
However, as a former special education teacher, she had a different perspective than most who might have received the same news. “I knew how special these kids were. I knew the road was going to be difficult, but I knew she was going to be such a blessing to this family.”
Shortly after the birth of their daughter Bailey, a visitor encouraged Jackie to contact the Intervention Center for Early Childhood (ICEC). This Orange County-based agency serves special needs children and their families, with centers in Irvine and Laguna Beach.
“I called the number and asked if we could participate in the group therapy,” Jackie says, “although I admit I was skeptical about what the therapy could offer.” She quickly realized what a blessing the organization was to be for her family. “I knew from the moment I walked in that I was going to love this program.”
Jackie explains that she and Bailey started the group therapy when Bailey was a little more than 6 months old. At 9 months, Jackie’s assessment is that Bailey, “has grown in leaps and bounds.”
Dedicated therapists conduct the weekly sessions that teach parents how to work with their children to reach milestones in their skill development. “The education we bring home each week is priceless,” Jackie says. “I take home the training and work with my daughter, as well as teach my husband how to do it, too.”
“I wanted her to start crawling,” Jackie says. “With my other kids; they just did it. But with Bailey—she needs help.” The therapists taught Jackie simple techniques that helped encourage Bailey to crawl. “It was under their instruction that she blossomed.”
The center’s staff also helps parents teach skills to their special needs children that they wouldn’t ordinarily recognize as important to a child’s gross motor development. For example, transferring an object from one hand to another is a big step for little ones—one that Jackie says she wouldn’t have realized had it not been for the program.
The last hour of each three-hour session is designed to support the parents. Caregivers are brought in to rock the children while the parents gather together in another area to lend support to one another.
“It’s one of my favorite parts of the program,” Jackie says. “I’ve learned a lot from the other parents.” She adds, “We get such professional assistance in raising our special kids.”