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Sunflowers Early Ed Center helps toddler overcome his developmental problem
new slt early ed
Cody Freeman, 2, is now able to enjoy a meal as a result of early intervention by Sunflower Diversifieds Early Education Center (EEC). He no longer needs the EECs professional services. - photo by COURTESY PHOTO

   During much of Cody Freeman’s young life, he didn’t know what it meant to enjoy a meal. During those rare times when he could get something down, the result was usually projectile vomiting.

          But after about a dozen visits by the Early Education Center (EEC) staff, along with family support, Cody is now eating like any other 2-year-old boy.

          Sunflower Diversified Services, a non-profit agency, owns and operates the EEC; early intervention services are free.

          “Cody was born with a forked tongue and his chin was drawn back,” said Heidi Freeman, his mom. “A Hutchinson doctor performed a procedure when Cody was 9 months old and then our Ellinwood doctor referred us to the early ed center. We are grateful that he did. Cody’s progress has been awesome.”

          The procedure corrected the physical problems but Cody remained traumatized by the thought of eating. He had to start over.

          The EEC team that provided the necessary guidance included Blythe Zimmerman, early childhood special education teacher; Heather Quillin, speech/language pathologist; and Liana Colson, physical therapist.

          “The staff started coming to our house in Ellinwood when Cody was about a year old,” Heidi recalled. “We had been trying, and trying and trying on our own but he would only push food away.

          “The EEC taught us that it was okay not to pressure Cody; we needed someone to explain that we didn’t need to push so hard,” Heidi said. “They taught us new ways to handle his day-to-day needs and now Cody is off the baby food and bottle, and is eating solid food.”

          The EEC professional staff also helped the toddler with his verbal skills during their visits over a six-month period.

          “Before they stepped in to help, Cody would only make sounds but now he is talking,” Heidi said. “Every day, he is learning new words. It is amazing how much he has learned and developed with the one-on-one help by the staff members.

          “It is safe to say,” she continued, “that without them, we would still be banging our heads against the wall. It was traumatic for him and for us.”

          Other family members who learned from the EEC are Cody’s dad, Chester, and sister, Harleey.

          A fringe benefit is that Cody is now sleeping through the night after full days of being “all boy,” Heidi laughed. “He is into everything, fixing everything and dragging everything around. I can’t quite put into words the difference in his life and our life.”

          Heidi encouraged other parents to contact the EEC with any concerns about a child’s development; a referral isn’t necessary.

“People sometimes think nothing can be done but that is far from the truth,” she said. “The EEC has a whole team that can help you solve a problem – not just make it better, solve it.”

          Blythe Zimmerman, the special ed teacher, noted that the Freeman family was instrumental in Cody’s success.

          “Everyone in the Freeman family was great to work with,” Zimmerman said. “They participated in our early intervention program and were willing to learn new ways to help Cody. The Freemans gave 110 percent and achieved the results they wanted and needed.”

          Sunflower’s EEC is part of the tiny-k infant/toddler program in Kansas. The non-profit agency’s service area includes Barton, Pawnee, Rice, Rush and Stafford counties.