Spotlight: Meet the Hamilton Family.
Marc is an enthusiastic young boy who loves to learn. He's being raised by foster parents Bill and Angie who have provided a caring home for him since he was an infant.
For 20 years, Bill and Angie Hamilton have opened their home as foster parents to over 30 children in desperate need of a loving and caring home. Many of the children they cared for have received ECI services. Marc was only 2 ½ months old when he came to their home. He was their first foster child with Down syndrome.
Angie explained that they weren't fully aware of what Marc's needs would be but, Debora Mears, ECI Service Coordinator/Registered Nurse, provided valuable assistance. Debora found a local training course provided by the Region 8 Education Service Center ECI entitled "What's up with Downs?" This course proved to be extremely beneficial to the family. One important item they learned was that many children with Down syndrome respond better to men because their voices are lower. This appeared to pertain to Marc.
At 2½ years old, Marc's speech is limited and he can only say 3-5 words. His ECI Speech Language Pathologist recognized his capability to understand and learn sign language. Currently, Marc uses sign language and can sign over 30 words. Angie explained that when they need to teach Marc to be gentle and soft, they sign to him the words "no" and "hurt." They pat his little arm and in return he understands to "pet the dog" gently.
At times, Marc can become overactive. Debora showed Angie a calming technique for times when Marc becomes overactive. "The down home practical techniques Debora brings to us is why she is so fantastic," stated Angie.
The family acknowledged that Marc has problems with motor skills. The ECI Physical Therapist provided the parents with a technique that would help strengthen his back and lower body so he can become more coordinated. When Marc was younger the family used what they called a "Boppy Seat", a doughnut shaped seat cushion that helped Marc sit up. These types of practical suggestions from ECI are so beneficial to the Hamilton family.
Debora considers the Hamilton family very unique. Whenever possible, the Hamiltons work together with the biological parents with hopes that Marc will be reunited with his parents in the future. "You can't have too many people loving them," commented Angie. As for Marc, he sees his birth parents every two weeks either, for a picnic or park day. His parents have attended all of his birthday gatherings.
Marc will turn three years old in November and ECI is working with the family on the transition process to public school. "It's been great to have Debora present when we talk to the special needs coordinator, speech therapist and the school staff. She has been a tremendous help and we are so grateful to ECI," commented Angie.
Marc's a lucky little boy! The Hamiltons have provided him a wonderful and caring home in which to thrive and grow. He is a very happy, alert and enthusiastic young boy who loves to learn and brings fun and excitement into their home.
(The names in this story have been changed to protect the identity of the family)