Friday, December 23, 2016

Mom Hatches a Plan for a Special Little Boy

Mom Hatches a Plan
For a Silent Little Boy

When McKellan Yurcek, alias Mac by his friends at school began Kindergarten this year, his Lancaster, Wisconsin teacher, Mrs. Chambers gave him Snack Penguin to help him focus on eating.  Mac is a silent little boy who is diagnosed with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, Autism, Involuntary Movement Disorder, immune compromise and vision challenges. He needs a high calorie intake to keep healthy. He struggles with eating and his brilliant teacher gave him a companion to help him eat and stay out of his friends snacks.  Mac's Mom wrote a Dear Classmates letter to try to help introduce and explain his needs the other Kindergarteners. 

Everyday Mac wanted to take Snack Penguin home and he did not want to return him. Eventually mom, Ann Yurcek, found a duplicate Mac calls Furry. Because Mac had trouble talking to other children, Mom sent Furry everyday to school with Mac in his backpack to comfort him. Furry and Snack Penguin became cousins. Over time it was discovered, Furry did more than just comfort Mac. Furry became a bridge of friendship and communication in the Lancaster Kindergarten Penguin classroom.

Furry stabilized the movement in Mac’s arms and helped him walk without falling so often. Holding Furry was comforting.  Kindergartners like to talk and the more they tried to talk to Mac, the more anxious Mac got trying to talk. Everyday the computer screen is filled with many penguins meeting Mac for the day from his kindergarten buddies. Penguin is the language they share in common. One day, at the computer, Furry began answering.  Mac was communicating through Furry even though the professionals had struggled. Slowly his voice began to be heard and he was at times talking with his friends without a microphone.

All fall, Furry has been going on all kinds of adventures to build relationships with his classmates. Furry has been in candy stores and on reindeer rides with the Yurceks. He is a friend with Elf on the Shelf, he’s been a doctor and done rounds with Mac’s Dad, gone fishing, and he’s been a firefighter. Anything Mac does, penguin does. Every morning Furry  shows up online to say "Hi!"

Mom hatched a plan. What if all the children could have their own penguin, just like Furry? Then the penguins could become friends and all the kids to talk through their penguins with Mac – maybe; just maybe Mac would soon transition to talk back to children. Mac is able to speak, but only when he is not anxious and speaking on what he knows. He has trouble with conversation.

Socialization is an important part of growing up and Mac has attended only five days of school in December. All the bugs at school came home with him and throughout November and December he was very sick. Each morning the Kindergartners sign on to the computer. Mac can hear everything the kids say, even though he can’t see everything. Mac struggles even with the computer and has been working hard to talk back and forth with the computer. He often listens in silence.

With holidays coming and parents searching for Hatchibles, Mom was hatching a plan to increase integration into his classroom. Mac stood out as different. What could be done to create equality when Mac was so challenged?  In search of another Furry, Google images helped Mom find out who Furry is. He is made buy Aurora and he comes in three sizes and different colors.  But where could she get one for each kindergartner in his classroom? It took seven stores, Amazon, and Barnes & Nobel to solve the dilemma.

On Thursday, Mac finally got to return to school. He was on antibiotics and had already lived through all the school bugs.  Mac’s autism therapist joined him with his mom delivering fourteen bags, a big wrapped package for Mrs. Chambers and a teeny tiny package for Snack Penguin.

Soon, all the children’s penguins were talking and Furry said “Merry Christmas!”

For the next weeks Mac will be home to learn to avoid the winter bugs and to stabilize much needed weight.  But he will still be part of the Penguin Classroom through his computer screen and he and his classmates will be catching up on the latest Penguin Adventures in Kindergarten!

And to the 14 Kindergarteners who got their new Penguins, Thank you for being such a great friend to Mac and we hope you enjoy your new furry friend!  To the parents you have amazing children and ask them about their penguins!

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Ten Things You Can For A Special Needs Family at Christmas

The holidays can be tough for special needs families. You can make their holiday a little brighter with  remembering their family.