Like so many mothers, one of Liz Finnegan’s favorite personality traits of her 3 ½-year-old daughter is her zest for life. “It gives me so much peace,” she said. “She is social, loves to sing and dreams about being a princess; I swear we’ve seen ‘Beauty and the Beast’ 150 times,” she laughed.
But in many ways, Liz shared, she hasn’t always felt as she’d imagined most mothers of toddlers feel. That’s because Liz’s daughter, Mia, was born at 30 weeks with periventricular leukomalacia (PVL) and diagnosed at the age of 1 with Cerebral Palsy. Her diagnosis has resulted in limited mobility. “Being the mother of a child with a disability, there were times where I felt isolated and alone, like I was the only mom in all of Westchester whose daughter had these needs.”
Those feelings began to change when Liz brought Mia to Elizabeth Seton Children’s School. The School supported Liz’s family in developing a plan of service in her home. Mia began attending the Toddler Developmental Group in September 2015 and in 2016 she transitioned into a preschool Special Class in an Integrated Setting (SCIS) classroom, where students with special needs learn alongside students without disabilities. “It’s such a nice, friendly environment and it doesn’t feel cold or hospital-like,” Liz said. The School community has been important for Liz as a mother. “I’m around other mothers who get it,” she said. “Plus I love the ‘ordinary’ experiences of bringing in cupcakes for birthday parties and things like that.”
Mia graduated in June 2017. When reflecting on her daughter’s progress, Liz shared that she is thrilled with all that Mia has learned from her teachers, all that she has gained from her work with her school therapists and the confidence and motivation she’s acquired thanks to her peers. “I want the teachers and the staff to know that I appreciate everything, especially the details like the way they lift her and help her eat. They really give these children who go through so much a happy and safe space to spend their day,” she said. “I have a lot to be grateful for.”
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