Success in Childrens Services
"Aspire is a big hit in my life I would say," said Mehnaz Khan with a laugh. As the mother of three children, two of whom have developmental disabilities, Mehnaz can't imagine life without Aspire's Center for Learning. The school provides a wide range of programs and services to children with disabilities, from the earliest possible diagnosis through age 21.
Mehnaz and her husband, Dr. Nasir Khan, have developed a close relationship with Aspire's teachers, aides and therapists. "You can just talk to them about anything," said Mehnaz. "They treat the students as if they are their own kids."
Two of the Khan's children have what is called a developmental delay. This describes when a child does not reach their developmental milestones at the expected times. It is an ongoing, major delay in the process of development. Delay can occur in one or many areas - for example, motor, language, social or thinking skills.
The Early Years
"Early Intervention was the key to solving my children's problems," said Mehnaz, who first started coming to Aspire with her daughter, Nawal, to attend a one-hour EI program for children and their parents.
Upon completing the EI program, Nawal was ready for Aspire's preschool program, where she made incredible strides. The curriculum integrates physical, emotional, cognitive, language and social skills - with a strong emphasis on peer interactions and school readiness skills. Comprehensive services include occupational, physical and speech therapy, as well as vision, health and education services. All services are delivered in a team approach.
"Nawal was the kind of person who just sat there doing nothing at all," said Mehnaz. "No talking, no socializing. That all changed." In Aspire's integrated classroom, Nawal learned to follow her peers. It also helped her overcome a fear of noisy places, heights and unfamiliar textures. "Little by little, Aspire encouraged her to participate in these things. She's no longer afraid to go outside on the playground or to the mall."
Now six years old, Nawal is completing kindergarten in a special needs classroom within her school district. Aspire's integrated classroom is what helped her get there. Perhaps most impressive is that Nawal uses a power wheelchair very efficiently. "She is very young to understand it so well. The credit all goes to Aspire," said Mehnaz.
The Khan's youngest child, Nabeel, also attended Aspire's EI program. He is now age five and enrolled in Aspire's preschool program. Mehnaz said her son is strong. "As far as speech, he was behind in understanding things," she said.
According to Nabeel's teacher, Andrea Karam, he is beginning to learn to use an augmentative communication device. "In communication he's just blossoming," she said. "We're working on obtaining approval for his own device, which will help him expand his communication skills."
Like his sister, Nabeel is also learning to use a power chair. "He loves being with his peers," said Andrea. "His participation has grown. Recently, another student was crying and he went over on his own to console her. We're just so proud of him."
Expanding Their Horizons
Mehnaz's biggest piece of advice for parents of children with developmental disabilities is not to be afraid to take them outside the home. "Parents may think that keeping their kids at home is better. You make plans that you'll teach them certain things at home. But that's not possible on a day-to-day basis. At home you can sometimes get upset and tense. At Aspire, they're always patient. I think patience is what the kids need most right now."
In addition, Mehnaz stresses the importance of giving the kids the opportunity to interact with so many other children with different abilities. "They learn things more quickly in group sessions," she said. "Socialization in the classroom setting is helpful."
'The whole team is astonished at how much both kids have grown," adds Andrea.