‘They are a gift’


 
 

Chicago Parent Staff

 

When you look at a child with special needs, don’t feel bad, Downers Grove mom Lynn Rogers says.

Instead, try to see the positive, she says. That’s what the child’s parents see.

"They are a gift, even though it’s a gift you didn’t know you wanted, like a club nobody wants to be in until you are in it," she says.

Click here to view the slide show.


Her son Billy, 3, is one of 33 children and young adults receiving services through Easter Seals DuPage and Fox River Valley Region who are featured in the agency’s eighth annual photography exhibition, "Transitions."

Twenty-nine photography students at the College of DuPage spent a month with an assigned family to capture moments in their everyday lives.

"Often families, who visit our center for their first time, have just received their child’s diagnosis and are concerned about their child’s future and abilities. These photographs give them hope that their child, although diagnosed with a special need, can still achieve much in their life and have a chance to participate in everyday activities," says Mary Alice D’Arcy, president of Easter Seals.

For people who see the photographs, "it reminds them that our services are offered to children who are children first. It just happens that their child’s body works differently than some other kids."

These images can be seen until October at the Easter Seals’ Villa Park office, 830 S. Addison Ave., Villa Park.

Chloe's luminous brown eyes and infectious smile attract attention wherever she goes and her boundless joy and spirit  inspire all who know her.  Challenged with speech and swallowing issues, due to dysphasia, Chloe has greatly improved with the help of her Easter Seals speech therapists. Photo by Nancy O'Sullivan


Kymora is a very lovable and amazing girl.  Despite being born 3-1/2 months premature, she's flourished into a very special child.  Kymora recently transitioned from being the baby of the family to being a "big sister," and has adapted surprisingly well to this new title (rivalry and all!) Photo by Michelle Geoga



With a sweet disposition and infectious smile, Sam enjoys riding the bus and going to school.  Sam is challenged with right-sided diaphragmatic paralysis, hypotonia, scoliosis, reflux and complex chromosome abnormalities.  Although at birth his prognosis was guarded, Sam can now stand using full leg supports, play independently with his toys, and eat small amounts of food without gagging.  He continues to make his parents and big brothers proud. Keep moving forward Sammy! Photo by Jay Kristensen



Mary has attended Easter Seals since 6 months of age, where she received occupational, physical and speech therapy combined with assistive technology for her diagnosis of hypotonia and developmental delay.  She was rediagnosed at age 11 with Rett Syndrome combined with Cerebral Palsy, continuing her therapies at Easter Seals.  Mary earned her High School Diploma at Hinsdale Central in 2006 and is auditing classes at C.O.D. this fall.  A bright young woman with an amazing smile and "Sophia Loren" eyes, Mary loves to travel, eat out, go horse back riding, learn and socialize. Photo by Bob Peterson



Although challenged with hypotonia and scoliosis, Abby is a bright eyed and energetic 5 year-old who does not let her disability stand in her way of enjoying life to the fullest.  Through Abby's hard work and determination, she accomplished her goal of walking to school without her walker on her first day of kindergarten this fall.  Abby loves writing, music, art, books and horseback riding.  She is a true inspiration to everyone who surrounds her - way to go Abby! Photo by Hillary Keenon



George is a delightful and charming boy who enjoys making people laugh.  He has been attending the Child Development Center here at Easter Seals since he was four-months-old.  Diagnosed with torticollis, brachycephaly, and low muscle tone, he began physical therapy services at the age of five-months-old.   He loves anything with wheels, going to the park, reading books, singing songs, coloring, and playing with his letters and numbers. Photo by Santokh Kochar



Quite introverted in his early years, Frank is now attending middle school where his language skills have really blossomed.  Very adept at using audio-visual equipment, he is his grandmother's go-to-guy for the satellite TV and likes to crack up with some off-the-cuff moment such as offering to take his baby brother to the Sundance Film Festival. Photo by Chris Colley



Jalen is an affectionate, energetic and happy 5 year-old who loves to sing.  Although challenged by some developmental and speech delays, Jalen has made great strides with the help of occupational and speech therapy at Easter Seals and with the support of his family and friends, therapists and teachers. Photo by Gary Ghertner 



Born at 37-weeks, Angel spent 4 months in the NICU with a G-Tube and heart-lung monitor.  She died twice and had so many problems at birth that no one thought she would be here today.  Through physical and speech therapy, Angel has made the incredible achievements of walking independently, climbing up and down stairs, signing and is now attempting to speak.  Angel has blossomed into a very independent child and is an absolute joy for her therapists to work with. Photo by Cynthia Lehman



Identical twins born three months premature, Aidan & Will have beaten a lot of odds.  Their strength and determination are admirable traits which enabled them to overcome their many hurdles encountered since birth.  They have received occupational, physical, nutrition and speech therapy services at Easter Seals since 8 months of age. Aidan loves dinosaurs and playing hide-and-seek, while Will loves playing with trains and reading books.  Most importantly, they love each other. Photo by Amanda Grabenhofer



Blessed with a smile that can light up the darkest room, Isabela loves posing for photographs.  When she isn't hamming it up in front of the camera, she spends her time cooking and organizing tea parties for her favorite animals and dolls, and looking for any and every opportunity to play in water!  Not surprisingly, one of her first words was "star", which aptly describes her shining and relentless disposition.  As she learns to speak more, she will undoubtedly say a big "thank you" to all of her friends at Easter Seals where she has received physical, occupational, and speech therapy for over 2 years. Photo by Santokh Kochar



Born prematurely following the death of his identical twin brother, Billy suffered a stroke in utero.  Diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy, seizures, feeding problems and respiratory concerns, Billy began attending Easter Seals at 2 months of age and receives occupational, physical and speech therapy to address his needs.  Billy enjoys spending time with his big sister, Brigid. Photo by Dave Baum

 



Born 3 weeks premature, Elijah was diagnosed with a rare condition called Arthrogryposis.  With limitations in the movement of his upper extremities due to joints in his arms becoming contracted, Elijah has continued to excel in all of the expectations set for him.  Currently attending the Child Development Center, he is a bright and motivated toddler, who enjoys playing with Elmo and watching Shrek. Photo by Diana Olsen



Daniel moved to Ottawa in 2006, where he attends the Ottawa Friendship House three days a week.  Having made many new friends in this adult training center, he enjoys participating in activities such as bowling, visiting new places, and playing on the computer.  Photo By Rich Sanders



Lisa is a graduate of the University of Illinois with a degree in Women's Studies.  She is an advocate for people with disabilities for Illinois Voices for Children, a motivational speaker that teaches "Tools to Become Your Own Advocate," and encourages organizations to work with their legislators to make changes for people with disabilities.  In her free time, Lisa enjoys watching movies featuring people with disabilities. Photo by Marita Blanken



Diagnosed with cancer, Michael has spent the past year enduring surgery, radiation and chemotherapy.  Ever the trooper, he kept plugging along like a soldier without any complaints and did not let his cancer get the better of him.  His family regards Easter Seals as being critical to them in its role in helping Michael recuperate from the side effects of his cancer treatment.  Way to go Michael! Photo by Corina Valdez



Stephen has received occupational, physical and speech therapy services at Easter Seals to build his core strength and feel more comfortable in his environment.  Throughout his brother's cancer treatment, Stephen's family named him their "sunshine" due to his constant smiles and ability to find joy in everything.  His sunny disposition has helped his family to realize that even through the worst of times, life does go on and is worth living. Photo by Corina Valde



Amy is a premature twin who was born weighing 1lb., 14 oz. and 12" long.  Diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy, Amy has been a client at Easter Seals since 5 months of age.  A graduate of Downers Grove South High School, Amy has volunteered extensively in her community.  Currently employed as a Research Assistant in the development department at Easter Seals, Amy's passions are the Chicago Cubs, college basketball and making children smile. Photo by Carol Ostrowski



Aaron is a fun, loving boy full of fearless energy who loves to play with his three siblings.  Diagnosed with Down Syndrome, Aaron is working very hard with his therapists in meeting many of his goals. Photo by Brian Powers



Born 2 months premature, Dillon spent his first 3 months of life in the NICU.  Referred to as a "floppy baby," he was born with a neuromuscular disease resulting in little muscle tone and inability to move any part of his body.  Ever the fighter, Dillon has overcome many challenges including enduring multiple hospital stays to insert a trach to help his ventilation at night and surgeries to insert rods into his back to help with curvature due to severe scoliosis.  Now a healthy and happy 10 year-old in the 5th grade, he is continuing to make improvements in his motor skills and learning to communicate with a Dynavox.  Dillon enjoys movies, his Leapster L-Max and his touch screen computer, which was a gift from the Make-A-Wish Foundation. Photo by Michelle Geoga



Grace..a little lady with determination.  After waiting 10 months from the on-set of her illness, Grace was diagnosed with Mitochondrial Disease.  She continues to make strides and achieve all of her goals, from walking to singing to using words.  She has a strong determination that will help her through all of life's challenges and loves frogs, the color green, her cousins, music, dancing and everything "Baby & Little Einstein's." Photo by John Bonk



Jenny is a happy, engaging 14 year-old excitedly making the transition to high school this year.  She also is making the transition to increased independence with the help of her constant companion, Simba, from the Morris Service Dog Center.  Thanks to her determination and the ongoing support of her Easter Seals therapy team, Jenny, who loves princesses, reading, riding her adapted three-wheel bicycle, dancing, swimming and playing baseball, shows her family everyday that all things are possible and that dreams really do come true. Photo by Cynthia Lehman



A sweet and loveable little boy who accepts every challenge brought his way, Joey has a smile that lights up any room.  He is currently receiving assistive technology, occupational and speech therapy services at Easter Seals where he is making fantastic strides, particularly in his augmentative communication.  Joey is a true blessing to his family and attribute him to their learning of the virtues of patience, understanding and acceptance. Photo by Steve Tokarczyk



Diagnosed with Down Syndrome, Sam has come to Easter Seals' Day Care since 10 months of age.  As part of the inclusive program, Sam received therapy during his days in Pre-K and has worked hard to achieve many of the goals set for him including his ABC's, colors, drawing, jumping, using longer sentences and counting to 20.  This fall, Sam has transitioned into the school system.  His parents call Sam their "special little angel." Photo by Cary Cobl



Diagnosed with Angelman Syndrome at 3 years of age, Grace has received therapy services at Easter Seals up to 4 times per week since the age of 1.  Thanks to her physical therapy services, she has greatly improved her transitional control allowing her to be completely independent in all of her gross motor skills.  This fall, Grace has made the transition of starting kindergarten. Photo by Eric Rejman



Chris successfully transitioned through many challenges from the time he was born.  He fought to mainstream into school and obtained a degree in Computer Science from the University of Illinois and a Masters in Software Engineering from DePaul University. Currently working as a Senior Business Analyst at HSBC, Chris has developed applications, served on committees and has set a standard of excellence for others to follow.  In his spare time, he enjoys 80's soft rock Christian music and romance movies. Photo by Rich Sanders



An independent and joyful spirit, Emma is making huge transitions this fall.  Now a "big kid," she attends elementary school for a full day and is winning new friends with her humor and sparkling smile.  She took her first independent steps in the pool this summer and is beginning to express herself more clearly with verbal and non-verbal communication.  Her family is excited to see what the next transition will bring! Photo by Mark Donnelly



Simon has right spastic hempilegia due to a stroke near the time of his birth.  Unable to speak intelligbly until the age of 5-1/2, Simon is now 7 and has transitioned into a fully conversant individual.  An enthusiastic learner with a great sense of humor, he enjoys reading, drawing, sports, music and people. Photo by Rene Edde



Diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy & Epilepsy, Sophia has received therapy at Easter Seals since 5 months of age.  Now a curious and fun-loving 2 year-old, Sophia is preparing to start school in November and loves music and playing with her older brother. Photo by David Duffell



Born at 28-weeks at a tiny 2 pounds, Katy has worked hard in physical and occupational therapy her whole life to attain the independence to be a University of Illinois freshman in 2007!  Along with an outstanding academic career, Katy has volunteered with school organizations and summer work helping others.  In her free time, Katy enjoys hanging out with family & friends, watching movies and listening to music. Photo by John Naughton



Aiden is currently transitioning from a private day school to his neighborhood public school with an aide.  He has accomplished so much including taking piano lessons, riding a two-wheel bicycle, and participating in choir at school.  A happy and energetic child, he can usually be found in a corner independently reading beginning reader books. Photo by Maureen Handley



Due to be a spring baby, Lauren was born 3 months premature and spent 75 days in the NICU.  Now 1 year of age, Lauren is proudly walking all over the place.  Having always been a fighter, Lauren is doing very well and is ready to accomplish her next big goal in learning how to be a big sister!  Lauren is her family's "Little Christmas Miracle." Photo by Nancy O'Sullivan



Brittany is a very happy and social 8 year-old.  Born with a rare birth defect and challenged with physical, mental and vision impairments, she has been receiving therapy at Easter Seals for the past seven years.  Brittany always looks forward to seeing her therapists at her therapy sessions every week. Photo by Maria Hungsberg

 
 







 
 
 
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