Leah’s Journey of Hope –
A family’s journey with United Ability often begins when a child is born with a disability receives a diagnosis that comes later, or experiences a traumatic event. In Leah’s case, it began before she was born—with her mother’s job.
NaTasha was a teacher with Hand In Hand Early Learning, our inclusive pre-school program that, because of you, serves children with and without disabilities. While teaching here, she learned that United Ability was where the impossible becomes possible and a place where dreams come true for individuals with disabilities.
A Typical Birth
Leah was born in 2017. She was beautiful, and everything seemed perfect. However, at four months of age, NaTasha noticed that Leah was not reaching typical developmental milestones. Using assessment skills learned at Hand In Hand, NaTasha was concerned and consulted her pediatrician, who was perplexed.
A few weeks later, Leah was crying inconsolably, and her body was jerking as if she was having a seizure. NaTasha rushed her to Children’s Hospital, and Leah received multiple diagnoses including a rare chromosomal genetic disorder, Epilepsy, and more. NaTasha shared, “I didn’t think twice about where she should go to receive the best care. United Ability was the place for her.”
Leah Comes Home
Leah entered our Hand In Hand Early Intervention and Early Learning Programs and immediately began receiving physical, occupational, and speech therapy. She also began seeing Dr. Charlie Law in the Ability Clinic. “She has grown so much from the first day she started with United Ability, and I can’t wait to see what the future holds for her,” NaTasha said.
The Early Learning Program is a big part of her life. “She loves every moment of being at Hand In Hand,” her mom said. “United Ability is family to us. They were years ago, but they are truly, truly, our family now. I wouldn’t trade them for anything in the world.”
Today, Leah is a fierce 3-year-old. Her infectious smile lights up any room; her strength and determination are endless.
Her mom shared, “Leah brightens our lives. All people with disabilities brighten our lives. They have a voice. They may not be able to tell you, but they have it. They show they have a lot to say.”
About the Hand In Hand Early Learning Program
Kim Braasch has been the director of the United Ability Hand In Hand Early Learning Program for 25 years.
“When we first started out serving children with disabilities, we allowed siblings and employees’ kids to come,” described Braasch. “It was amazing to witness the benefits of them learning side by side. To see a child in a wheelchair is the norm for our kids. They learn acceptance at an early age and to care for one another—that’s what sets us apart.”
Today, the program serves 140 part-time and full-time children from six weeks to five years old. In total, 35-40% of the program’s children have special needs, while the rest are typical children.
More than a classroom, the program offers additional resources including:
“Everything we do is a team effort. Families are a big part of that team. We see miracles happen every day. We celebrate the little things here. It could be the child’s first step. A child communicating on a communication device. Right now, Leah is thriving cruising. She is a happy, determined little girl. She just lights up when you see her,” Braasch concluded.