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My The Summit Center Autism Walk Fundraising Page

Tammy Nicholson

Tammy Nicholson

Hi, my name is Tammy Nicholson I’m honored and privileged to have this opportunity to help an organization that is so dear to my heart. Please take a few moments to read about me, my family, and how The Summit Center has placed hope and light into our lives. I hope you as well feel compelled to donate to such a wonderful school.

I always wanted to be a mother. I had this vision of raising a bunch of kids with my amazing husband - sharing adventures, going on beach vacations, taking road trips, going to concerts, enjoying game nights, and simply sharing everything I loved. I wouldn’t care what my kids did when they grew up; all that mattered to me was that they would be happy and independent. I pictured each of my children being a better version of myself. When my first daughter was 14 months old, I discovered I was pregnant with twins. The three were going to be my little sidekicks - three little girls who I would mold into independent women and the best of friends.

From the start, the twins were very fussy babies. They had issues with reflux, feeding, and dairy intolerance. After many trips to multiple doctors and hospitals, we felt things started to work themselves out. The twins started to gain weight and thrive. They were happy babies who were a little late reaching some milestones, which I attributed to being born prematurely. They finally began to crawl at an age when many kids start to walk. I don’t believe I was consciously in denial about the twins’ delays. It was honestly not even on my radar that I would have a child or children with developmental delays or any kind of special needs.

This changed over the next several months, as each day brought new struggles. They never responded to their names, all eye contact ceased, and at times they stopped saying the few sounds they made. My concerns and intuition were confirmed when the first of many developmental experts evaluated the twins and diagnosed them with significant developmental delays. I was unprepared for what was to come. I began to have a constant sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach. I went online and spent many nights frantically researching early childhood autism. It suddenly struck me that my daughters had autism. As abruptly as I realized Harper and Emily had autism, I collapsed into devastation and grief. For months I cried all the time; I stopped socializing. I was nauseous and couldn’t sleep. After the twins were formally diagnosed, my life no longer felt like my own.

The girls needed help, which brought a variety of therapists, supervisors, and social workers into our lives. Thankfully, many of these outside people became part of our strongest support system. This support system is centered around The Summit Center. The teachers and staff have given me hope, joy, and faith to know my girls will be just fine. They have helped me stay in the present - conscious and calm as I face behavior issues and challenges. I have learned to wade through the rough moments, as they always pass, and new joyful ones replace them.

Since their diagnoses, my husband and I have worked hard with what we have been handed, but not nearly as hard as my daughters have worked! Since we started services with Summit, my girls can now play and sit for several minutes at a time. Their eye contact is incredible. They not only enjoy playing with toys, but I get to hear them laugh. As their mother, it fills my heart beyond belief.

Harper, who six months ago would fall several times a day, is now walking in a straight line with the help of physical therapy services. She also makes sounds in certain tones and with the help of her speech therapist has been able to research songs that have that same tone. When someone sings these songs to Harper she will respond with her voice. It’s simply amazing. Occupational therapy has discovered that Harper likes certain textures in her hands and has used this in her learning style. Her gross motor skills have increased since they started this.

Emily continues to make tremendous progress daily. She can now identify her letters, numbers, and colors. She can imitate playing during her occupational therapy sessions, where learning becomes fun. Emily is very cautious and is intimidated by stairs, hills, or anything that is not a flat surface. Since working with Summit, she has mastered stairs with assistance and will soon be on her own!

The growth the girls have made together is remarkable. The home skills lessons are changing our everyday lives. They have learned the simple tasks that we take for granted such as hair brushing without crying, teeth brushing, washing hands, throwing out the trash, and using utensils to eat. The list could go on and on. Summit uses dot point lessons that indicate the girls’ daily progress. They work on small weekly steps until the task is completed on their own and then move on to something else. This week we are starting potty training. Our two little girls that have learned to communicate using picture cards (again, thanks to Summit), will start to learn to use the bathroom. I'm still in shock. A year ago, I imagined my girls in diapers for many years. Summit has given me hope that I will take diapers off my budget in the near future!

While most funding is provided by New York State, there is always a significant shortfall due to Summit’s higher staffing ratios. This shortfall affects the vast majority of programs, from the Early Autism Program (which the twins are enrolled in) to respite care and much more. This year, the New York State Education Department requested a 7% increase for schools like Summit, but the Division of Budget approved only 4%. Summit could miss out on more than $500,000 in funding. That is why donations are critical to maintaining high-quality intensive programs and services.

Please help the children of our wonderful community continue receiving these critical services. Your support will ensure that they, along with their families, have hope, joy, and support.

Sincerely,

Tammy Nichoslon
Harper & Emily’s mommy

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