HMS Student Sabina’s Story

Sabina and her mom in Dr. Seuss attire

A chat with her mom, Michelle Heim

What HMS school unique?

I’ve never been to another school like it. The level of respect, the kindness, the acceptance. Everyone is here for the same reason: to see your child happy and succeed. They seeSabina’s ability rather than the disability.

What went into your decision to send Sabina here?

Her safety, from a medical perspective, was very important to us. When we came to visit, we felt they had the capacity to keep her safe and happy, and to help her thrive. We are in almost constant communication with the nurses and caregivers here. That communication gives us the comfort that we need to know that not only is she safe here, but she’s well cared for. And being able to know what happened at school today is also so important to us, since we don’t have a student who can get off the bus, run in the door and say, “Hey mom, this is what I did at school today.” It’s a bridge connecting the two worlds, and we’re so grateful for it. They also do a wonderful job of listening to our feelings and wants and needs and anything that involves Sabina.If there’s something that I have a concern about related to goals that we’re working towards, I pick up the phone or I send an email and say, “Hey, can you give me a call? I have this idea.”

What are some of the therapies Sabina has at HMS?

She has music therapy, speech therapy, art therapy, occupational therapy, physical therapy and feeding therapy, which is very important to our family picture. We would love for her to be able to eat safely with our family.

She loves her time in the art room painting and expressing herself. She loves to come home and show us what she’s created or and to see her work hanging on the wall. It gives her a huge sense of pride.

We are also big fans of the recreational therapists who are very good at what they do and organize some pretty cool activities and field trips. Last spring, my daughter walked a pony with a lead and that was a huge, huge hit.

What about the social opportunities at HMS?

The class sizes are small which really allows students to bond and spend time together in different therapies. Plus, you’re in an environment where you’re working on a common goal with your peers. You can encourage your buddy and help them get to where they’re trying to go. I don’t necessarily think that she would have the same kind of connection with her peers in a mainstream classroom.

I think it’s also really important for there to be a little bit of peer pressure, so to speak. It’s very easy for someone who has caregivers and parent-advocates to fall into a one-on-one rhythm of socializing and spending a lot of time with nurses and caregivers. I think as, as a student, as a child, having peers who share your experiences goes a long way and opens the door to a lot more emotion and learning.

Have you gotten to know the other parents?

The parent community has been wonderfully warm, kind and open as well. Especially when you’re coming in with a five-year-old (at the time), and you are looking to parents who have been here for many years and who have been on this parent journey for many years. They have experience, they have ideas and resources and things to share with you that can truly benefit the age andphase that you’re in with your student. There have been endless, endless conversations aboutdifferent strategies, therapies, summer camps, doctors… it’s a community that helps and encourages one another. I don’t know if I would find that anywhere else for her. It’s been very important for us.

Tell us about the Individual Education Plan (IEP) experience at HMS

The one thing that I never really expected was a wonderful IEP. We were primed with a “going into battle” mindset from other experiences, and the IEP was always a very scary thing. But after our first one here, we realized that it’s not scary at all. We look forward to them. It’s wonderful to hear each staff person talk about Sabina, and not just superficial things. By mid-October she had been here for a month, and the way that staff would talk about Sabina during the IEP was indicative of how much they had gotten to know her, and of all the things that they envisioned doing with her. There was excitement in their eyes to be working towards this!

What would you want to tell a parent who is considering sending their child to HMS?

For us, the choice to send our daughter to HMS wasn’t really a choice. We could not, not send her here, after seeing all that would be provided for her and all that she would be able to see and do.

We had concerns about the commute because we live a little further away. But once we were here, toured the facility and got to see that it was this warm, nurturing, loving community…it was honestly everything that we had hoped for, for our child… all the other concerns didn’t matter anymore. We knew we had made the best decision.

How has Sabina’s life changed since attending HMS?

She’s talking a lot more, with her assisted device or by verbalizing. She has a lot to share and a lot of friends. She’s an important part of her community and her community is so important to her.

Our happiness lies within Sabina’s happiness and seeing her love to go to school so much. And that is everything that as parents, we had hoped for her to have. We’re so happy that every day, she gets to go somewhere she loves, and feels as though she is loved. As a parent, if you can honestly say that, it is everything.