When lockdowns hit, parenting got hard. The First Teacher Home Visiting program made it so much better.

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Max and Kristen and Leanne
United Ability has helped Kristen and her son Max find their groove. (Sharron Swain / Bham Now)

Parenting is challenging. Throw in COVID lockdowns, a working mom and a challenging two-year old, and you’re in for some chaos. At least, that was mom Kristen Brady’s experience. Luckily, a casual referral to United Ability’s First Teacher Home Visiting Program made all the difference to her and her son Max. Here’s how.

Connecting with United Ability’s First Teacher Home Visiting Program

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Leeann and Max playing at United Ability. (United Ability)

The pandemic arrived at the moment Kristen’s son Max was hitting “the terrible twos.” Unfortunately, the daycare he’d been attending since he was a baby, like so many others during spring of 2020, shut down. 

Unfortunately, trying to find a new daycare just wasn’t working. The changes in routine, caregivers and location were causing tantrums, biting and other difficult behaviors. “It got to the point where there were no good days,” she remembers.

Luckily, one of the women Kristen met at a daycare mentioned a program that might be useful. She forwarded the email for United Ability’s First Teacher Home Visiting Program on Max’s second birthday. Two years later, Kristen says that one referral made a world of difference. 

The first home visit

United Ability
Max and Leeann at United Ability. (United Ability)

When Leeann Haines first came to Kristen’s house, Kristen felt a sense of relief. Looking back, she can see that some of the things the Family Support Specialist would go over provided foreshadowing for what was to come later on with speech or ABA (applied behavior analysis) therapy. 

But, to get to the point where they could access the necessary therapies, they needed a diagnosis. If you’ve ever been down that road, you know it can be a long one. 

Leeann was able to help Kristen navigate the extensive evaluation and diagnosis process, while providing tips and support that helped the mother-son pair get through the waiting time. 

A few things she offered: 

  • Help navigating the school system
  • Knowledge of the types of resources Max could qualify for
  • Knowledge of the types of therapy he could get

“Having someone to help me figure out everything—or even just to sit down with me for an hour and say ‘let’s talk about sleep schedules, or bathtime, or how you’re doing’—was a lifesaver.”

Kristen Brady

Who the First Teacher Home Visiting Program is for

United Ability
Max and a crowd of women who love him. (Kristen Brady)

Leeann Haines, Family Support Specialist with United Ability, outlined three types of families the First Teacher Home Visiting Program is for:

  • Families with children ages birth to five (and, they sometimes start before birth)
  • Families with a child with a diagnosed disability, developmental delay or simply challenging behavior (in case you’re wondering, ADHD counts)
  • Families who may be in need of extra home support 

The program currently serves over 70 families in the Greater Birmingham Area, and sometimes they refer to other services, such as early intervention.

Max is 4 now—how he’s doing

Max and Kristen
Max out and about. (Kristen Brady)

We’re happy to report that Max is now four and doing great. His autism diagnosis qualified him for almost full-time ABA therapy, which was completely free through their local school system and insurance. He’s completed a year and is about to be discharged April 1 because he’s met all his goals.

Now, Max is ready for preschool and excited to look at day cares as well as to meet and play with other kids. 

When Kristen reflects on the difference the First Teacher Home Visiting Program made, she’s grateful for the way her Family Support Specialist helped educate her before appointments and through the complicated parts of the diagnostic process. 

A big reader, Kristen was also grateful for all the resources Leeann recommended along the way. But mostly, Kirsten appreciated how Leeann always checked in to make sure she was okay. 

Kristen is grateful for how the First Teacher Home Visiting Program helped get her through the days when “The meltdowns were constant, he wasn’t sleeping, we didn’t know what was going on and I couldn’t work.”

She’s also grateful for how much her relationship with Max has grown: “We were together every day. We just had to build a foundation for our relationship and we did it. I just had to learn a different way to parent, because I didn’t know anything about how to parent a child with autism. But having the support has been wonderful.”

Interested in learning more about the First Teacher Home Visiting Program? Contact Susan Conwell at (205) 944-3951 or email sconwell@unitedability.org

To learn more about United Ability, visit their website or follow them on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn or Twitter

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Sharron Swain

Writer, Interviewer + Adventurer | Telling stories to make a difference

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