Tristan Smiles

It’s 8:30 on a Wednesday morning at Tristan Cavada’s day care center and his parents are meeting with the toddler’s therapist and his teacher before going to work. They are comparing notes, discussing any concerns and talking about what Tristan needs to keep progressing.

Tristan was born with extra fluid in his brain and, as a result, has delayed motor skills and some vision problems. In his first two years, he was hospitalized several times. Worried about his social and physical development, Tristan’s parents, Clint and Janeth, turned to Aspire for help.

Tristan needed several types of therapy —physical, developmental, occupational and speech. But it was hard on Tristan to get all of his therapy at home in the evening. He was just too tired. Clint and Janeth approached Aspire with the idea of having some of the therapy done at their son’s day care center in Berwyn.

“We agreed right away,” says Ashley Stoffel, Tristan’s occupational therapist. “This teamwork is a perfect example of Aspire’s vision in action. Tristan and his caregivers are all learning and growing together.”

Carmen Trejo, Tristan’s teacher, admits she was nervous when she first learned that Tristan was moving up from the infant room to her classroom of toddlers.

“I thought it was going to be hard and I knew his parents were concerned,” says Carmen. “But we took that extra step together. It feels good to see him improving and participating in our classroom. Now Tristan is learning, I am learning and all of the children are learning, too.”

Boy standing up in his adaptive walkerThe ten boys and girls in the room, ages 15 months to two years, include Tristan in all of their activities.

“At first, they called Tristan ‘baby’ because he wasn’t sitting up or walking,” says Carmen. “They don’t do that anymore. They interact with him and, at the same time, watch out for him.”

Stoffel has been impressed with how the children treat Tristan. “They are interested in helping him and are so compassionate,” she says.

One of the first things Stoffel acted on in the toddler room was to help Tristan be at the same level as his playmates. She worked with the teachers on techniques to help him sit up at the table so he could take part in snack time and other activities. A gait trainer, or adaptive walker, is helping Tristan learn to walk while enabling him to stand up and take steps around the room.

Carmen and Tristan’s parents have witnessed his social and emotional development blossoming. At first Tristan

was imitating his friends in the classroom. Now, Carmen says, they are imitating him. “He is social with the other kids and they respond well to him,” she explains.

Clint and Janeth are happy to see Tristan’s personality coming out.

“He didn’t smile or even cry when he was an infant,” she says. “He communicates now. He giggles. We know when he is frustrated and when he is happy. I can’t even put into words what the help of Aspire and the teachers in the school has meant to us.”

Stoffel sees Tristan moving along and making progress. “It’s not so scary anymore. Now it’s fun and the family can enjoy their son. They can make plans for his future.”

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