Arabiyaan is two years old. After only six months with Horizons, her mom, Shylia, is already noticing tremendous growth.
Horizons was recommended to Shylia by her shelter, Heading Home. When she learned more and came for a visit, Shylia noticed Horizons was very serious about their work with the children and families in their system, which she appreciated.
“Horizons gave me the time and freedom to search for a job and housing – something that is not easy to do when you have a child with you on those travels and interviews,” said Shylia. “Once Arabiyaan started with Horizons, it only took me a week to find a job.”
Before she started with Horizons, Arabiyaan was not a very active or outgoing little girl. She would fuss or cry when she wanted something, but could not specify what she wanted to those who cared for her. Today, Arabiyaan has already progressed in her communication skills. She is repeating words and using hand gestures to help her mom and teachers understand what she wants.
“She’s not going to just a daycare. Horizons is so much more than that – they are actually teaching her,” Shylia said. “I feel very happy knowing that Arabiyaan has access to books, arts and educational toys. She gets to be a kid and play, which is something she couldn’t do before. She is also picking up on the positive behavior they’re teaching at Horizons.”
In the shelter, Shylia and Arabiyaan share a space with two other moms and several other children. Shylia worried that Arabiyaan would pick up on the bad behaviors she was noticing of the other children that she lived with.
Arabiyaan’s teacher, Karoline Beaumont, recalls when she started at Horizons.
“Arabiyaan didn’t use words or eye contact, and nobody could touch her or be next to her – not even her teachers or her peers. This was very difficult for all of us in the classroom, so we worked very hard to implement age-appropriate plans that were geared to her developmental needs.”
The teachers tried many different developmental strategies before they figured out a system that worked for Arabiyaan. Through a routine of consistent care and affection, her teachers were able to quell her fears of adults and other children. Understanding the background of toxic stress she had been exposed to, the staff used a combination of positive verbal reassurances, sign language and singing to help calm Arabiyaan when she was upset. Eventually, Arabiyaan started using her words to communicate to staff what she wanted.
Today, they are happy to share that she has made tremendous progress.
“Arabiyaan is now making eye contact with everyone, building positive relationships with peers and teachers, sharing with her classmates, taking peers’ hands to play with her,” Beaumont explained. “She is always smiling and laughing, and she is starting to express her feelings using words – something we work on with all of the children we see.”
Horizons’ support for both the children and their parents does not stop at the classroom. With a team-focused approach, the staff hold regular meetings to identify progresses and challenges they are experiencing. Collectively, they create individualized learning plans and goals for each child. With specific training to care for children experiencing the toxic stress that is associated with homelessness, the Horizons staff is dedicated to providing high-quality early education and care that will positively impact their children’s development.