“Hi, I’m Nathan,” says a smiling seven-year-old from around the corner of the entryway. “What’s your name?” Nathan is a sweet, friendly first-grader who was referred to Boone County Family Resources three years ago through the First Steps Program when the family relocated to Columbia for a new job. “We were actually in First Steps for our youngest son and our coordinator said, ‘you’ve got to get connected with BCFR,’ so we began services for Nathan,” says Robyn, Nathan’s mother. “We came from a community where we didn’t have any services or supports like BCFR. We are so blessed to have this in Columbia.”
Nathan, who has an unknown genetic disorder, receives speech therapy, toileting supplies, therapeutic recreation and Home-Based Support Services through BCFR. The agency has also assisted with the purchase of orthotics for Nathan. “With Nathan not having a defined disorder, insurance doesn’t cover the therapies or some of the other things he needs,” says Robyn. “It would be difficult to afford to do everything for him without BCFR.”
Most recently, the agency was able to provide an adapted bike for Nathan who enjoys being able to ride with his brothers in his neighborhood. “He’s still getting the hang of pedaling, but he really does enjoy using the bike,” says Robyn. During the interview, Nathan was proud to take his bike for a spin up the street to demonstrate.
“I have truly loved being able to work with Nathan’s family,” says Barbara Friskey, Nathan’s support coordinator. “Nathan is an extremely sweet boy and his family is very dedicated to helping him develop his skills to the best of his ability. I had the best time working with the family and Walt’s Bike Shop on getting an adapted bicycle authorized for Nathan. It was a happy highlight of my year!”
During the regular school year, Nathan attends school at Paxton Keeley Elementary in a special needs classroom for Kindergarten through third graders. Robyn says he enjoys school, but he was getting excited about summer break. The family is planning some “staycations” this summer to stay close to home while Nathan continues therapies through July. “Nathan likes going on adventures so we’ll probably take several trips to the park. He loves letter boxing, exploring and doing experiments,” says Robyn. “We will also incorporate some homeschooling this summer to keep Nathan up-to-speed on his learning while he’s out of the public school classroom.” Robyn says Nathan also likes to participate sometimes when she is homeschooling Nathan’s brothers during the regular school year. “Especially when there are experiments,” chimes in Jacob, Nathan’s older brother. “Nathan loves to do experiments!”
Jacob himself is a bit of a celebrity around the BCFR offices. He is the young man who won the “I Am Able” video contest sponsored by the agency last year. His video about Nathan was the unanimous winner. “I thought I was in trouble or something when Mom told me she had to talk to me,” says Jacob with a sheepish grin. “But I wasn’t in trouble! She was telling me that I won the contest. I couldn’t believe it! I just wanted to show people how proud I am of my brother.”
This summer Nathan is also looking forward to seeing Sarah again – the family’s Home-Based Support Services caregiver. She will be home for the summer and therefore able to spend some time with Nathan. “She’s wonderful,” says Robyn. “It’s so hard to find caregivers and once we found Sarah, we didn’t want to let her go! We’re so glad she’ll be back home for the summer.”
The family is very active in their church and they are working with a church committee to create a special needs ministry that will start serving kids in the church at a learning level they can understand. “The real need is for adult classes, so we will start with the kids and see how it goes,” says Robyn. “I want Nathan to have a place to go when he’s an adult.” Nathan is well-known and loved by the other members of the church. “He’s famous for his hugs and high-fives,” says Robyn.
“Working with BCFR has been amazing for our family,” says Robyn. “We almost feel overwhelmed sometimes by all the possibilities for services and supports for Nathan. With all that we have access to here, we will never move out of Boone County!”