When two-year-old Nelson first started at Horizons, he was a nonverbal child. Unable to express himself through words, he cried and grunted to get attention and convey his emotions. Nelson’s single dad was working tirelessly to support his growth, but as a toddler he was behind on hitting developmental milestones especially with social-emotional development and language skills.

When Nelson started coming to school at Horizons, things began to change.

Upon entering the Toddler classroom in the Jamaica Plan Early Education Center, Nelson quickly fell under the watchful eye of Jazielys. Known as “Jazie” by her friends, Jazielys wasn’t a teacher but another toddler student just like Nelson. In his first week in the program, Jazie initiated a friendship by whispering to him at the end of nap time to get his attention. Gaining his trust through her friendly disposition, she began guiding him around the classroom, including him in activities, and helping him communicate.

The teachers in the classroom quickly recognized this dynamic and fostered the friendship between Nelson and Jazie. With a welcoming social environment and a new sense of confidence nurtured through a supportive companionship, Nelson soon began to connect with the educators and other children too. Jazie’s bubbly personality, full of language and kindness, helped Nelson feel comfortable to communicate with her and others. According to his teachers, it wasn’t long before he started responding and expressing himself more effectively.

Beyond facilitating an essential place for play, connection, and exploration, Horizons for Homeless Children provided Nelson structure, consistency, loving care, and a safe place to call his own during the day. Horizons’ educational curriculum and wraparound services supported the positive changes in his development, facilitating Early Intervention Support to help him catch up on his milestones.

Early Intervention will provide Nelson specialized services with an Occupational Therapist in the areas of communication, social and emotional development, and speech language pathology to gently guide him to the development level of other toddlers in the classroom. These skills will further help him to flourish in activities and more easily connect with teachers and peers. Jazie’s influence also fosters a sense of independence in Nelson – he watched how she could take charge around the classroom and realized he too could control some of his destiny.

For him, Jazie is a friend to emulate and learn from. For Jazie, an only child and natural leader, having Nelson as a friend provides her a productive means of expression and use of her aptitude for guiding others in a way that benefits both children.

By sharing a Horizons classroom, these two bonding toddlers continue to build a friendship that allows them to both grow and develop in a healthy, safe, and supportive environment. Nelson and Jazie, through their companionship, education, and playful experiences, are together more prepared for when they eventually move on to kindergarten. These early developmental experiences at Horizons have set both children on a lifelong path of interpersonal connection and communication, providing them the means to nurture a new friendship and learn together through play.

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