Think back to your earliest childhood memories. Back before you had any responsibilities, before you had any worries. Back to when life was carefree and simple.
Now imagine that instead of relishing in a state of childhood bliss, filled with fast friends, sweet treats, and regularly scheduled naps, you find yourself facing the cruelties of the adult world from such a young age. Poisonous words and physical blows flood your young life, and overwhelming feelings of loneliness and anxiety begin to occupy your days.
Such was the reality of Sharayu before she came to Marcfirst. At just two years old, Sharayu experienced relentless bullying from other kids her age, simply because she was different than them. No one wanted to play with her. Instead, they would tease her, call her names, push her, and hit her. Due to this bullying, Sharayu became very shy and timid around other people, especially children. She was scared to be herself. Scared to be a kid.
Sharayu’s parents, Shweta and Yuvraj, felt sad, alone, and depressed. They wanted to help their daughter overcome her fears, but they didn’t know where to begin. Having no family in the U.S. and not knowing what services were available in the community, Shweta and Yuvraj continued to watch their daughter struggle in isolation, hoping that Sharayu’s developmental delays would go away on their own.
However, during a doctor’s visit, Sharayu’s pediatrician referred her to Marcfirst, where she could get speech and behavioral therapy through our SPICE Pediatric Therapy program. After an initial consultation with our therapists, Sharayu and her family started to receive one-on-one support.
Sharayu began participating in in-home therapy, where she would learn to embrace her preschool skills. Marcfirst therapists used specialized techniques to help correct Sharayu’s developmental delays. Within just a few sessions, Sharayu’s parents were able to notice their daughter’s progress. She quickly reached her targeted milestones.
Sharayu and her family also received additional support beyond therapy. She participated in Transition Class, which prepared her for the structure of school. Shweta and Yuvraj joined PAL Group, where they could connect with other parents whose children were also facing similar issues. Not only was Sharayu able to get the help she needed, but her parents were able to overcome their feelings of helplessness and isolation.
Since coming to SPICE at Marcfirst, Shweta says that “Sharayu’s progress has been enormous. She has gotten excellent remarks from school and was told she was her teacher’s favorite! She can now sing, tell stories, and play with other kids fearlessly.” Now, instead of being scared to be around other children, Sharayu can be herself. She has the confidence to laugh and play. To make friends. To be a kid again.
Without Marcfirst’s help, it is likely that Sharayu would not have been able to overcome her developmental delays by herself. Because of the support that she and her family received, Sharayu was able to confront her fears & anxieties so that she could thrive and, most importantly, play!
While we are incredibly proud of the progress that Sharayu has made, lack of funding makes us face the harsh reality that we do not have the capacity to serve every child in McLean County who has developmental delays. Currently, our SPICE Pediatric Therapy program has 200 families on the waiting list to receive services. If we had the financial capacity to hire more therapists, we could eliminate the waiting list altogether, so that no child would have to wait for the help that could change his or her life.