Jacquelyn, age 4, and Magaly, age 3, cannot speak. Their very young, single mother, Lissett Diaz, has never heard them utter a single word. Jacqueline and Magaly are 2 of 4 children born to Ms. Diaz, the oldest being 5 years old and the youngest 6 months old. Their father, who is not in their lives, left Ms. Diaz to work 12 hour days at a factory to support her family. Two years ago, Jacquelyn was diagnosed with William Syndrome, a developmental disorder that affects many parts of the body and is characterized by developmental delays. Jacquelyn is mute but not deaf, while her sister Magaly is deaf and mute. Both girls communicate with aggression, frustration and wild behavior, comparable to Helen Keller. Magaly however, is more aggressive and will often fight her sister. Due to Ms. Diaz’s long hours at work, lack of support and procrastination, these girls had never received any services for their disabilities. One Hope United’s Intact Family Services became involved in August 2014 when Magaly drank Lysol while in the care of Ms. Diaz’s younger sister and her boyfriend. A second hotline call was made because Jacquelyn had bruises all over her body. It was determined that these bruises were a result of Magaly’s aggressiveness.
From August 2014 to January 2015, Ms. Erma Umoren worked with and encouraged their mother not to give up by getting herself and her children the services they needed. Often due to Ms. Diaz being tired, overworked and overwhelmed, she would not follow through with the recommended services for herself or her children. However, Ms. Umoren would not give up on this family. Through Ms. Umoren’s involvement with the family, Ms. Diaz was able to contact the special needs school in her community to set up an IEP team of professionals: special education teacher, general education teacher, evaluation representative, occupational therapist, psychologist, social worker and speech-language pathologist. Ms. Umoren supported Ms. Diaz and made arrangements with the team of professionals to get both of the girls evaluated. Ms. Umoren helped Ms. Diaz set up a family meeting with her sister and brother-in-law, who have since moved to Chicago to help Ms. Diaz raise her children. They plan to stay here permanently to continue supporting Ms. Diaz and the girls.
Due to the Intact Family Program and Ms. Umoren’s encouragement and support, Jacquelyn and Magaly were accepted into ODLSS (Office of Diverse Learner Supports & Services) through Chicago Public Schools. On Friday, Feburary 13, 2015, both girls started their first day of school at Jesse Sherwood Elementary School (formerly known as early childhood instructional program), located at 245 W. 57th Street, Chicago, IL. The girls will be provided with transportation to and from school.
Jacquelyn was accepted in an inclusive program and will receive english language arts, mathematics, independent functioning, speech/language, social emotional and health/ medical services. Jacquelyn is also eligible for consultative nursing services. Magaly will receive individualized attention, prompting, verbal cuing, and modeling for appropriate social interaction and behavior. She will also benefit from a small structured classroom environment, where she can practice social skills and have the opportunity to relate to peers her age. Magaly has difficulties sustaining attention and following direction and shows Global Development Delay behaviors that are often associated with children who have been diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder. Magaly meets the criteria to receive services for children with developmental delays.
Ms. Diaz, with the help of her sister, has secured a new job with better work hours. Ms. Diaz couldn’t be more thrilled. “I hope my girls will talk”, she shared. “If you (Erma Umoren) had not been there, my girls would not have gotten the help they needed.” Staff at the school will help Ms. Diaz with potty training and support her in learning home to better communicate with her girls. We believe that Jacquelyn and Magaly will one day, like Helen Keller, “communicate with the outside world and lead a life of accomplishment.”