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Camper Carter!

A note from Carter’s Mom, Courtney

Carter is your typical 7 year old girl that is full of life, has a smile that will melt your heart, and beautiful long blonde hair that leaves most of us a little envious. Carter was born in October 2015, at a whopping 9 pounds 9 ounces. She was just like any other newborn, but we quickly noticed that she was not hitting her milestones like her older brother, Camden, had. As teachers, we both knew that no two children are alike and they go at their own pace. We brought our concerns to her pediatrician and he diagnosed her with low tone, which made sense with her physical developmental delays and not being able to sit up on her own or crawl, but we still didn’t have any answers as to why she didn’t communicate with us in any way. Around her first birthday, she was referred to Dynamic Therapy Center and began biweekly therapy sessions. Carter began to progress and was able to walk unassisted, but was still pretty far behind her peers and we were referred to a Neurologist. After our initial visit, he felt that everything was normal from the neurological perspective, but recommended that we see a Geneticist to rule out any genetic abnormalities, so we did.

In August of 2017, when she was 22 months old, Carter was diagnosed with a chromosomal abnormality in the long arm of her 2nd chromosome (2q), where a single portion was duplicated. Her specific duplication was not named, and at the time, Geneticists at Vanderbilt were unable to find documentation of any other patient in the world with the same exact single copy as our daughter. As a believer and knowing that God makes no mistakes, I was both in awe and scared to death. Our Carter is literally one of a kind, but what would this mean for our little girl and her life? The answer to that was unknown in the medical world, but I knew that her story had already been written and that she would be taken care of.

We met with the staff at Dynamic Therapy Center and came up with the best plan possible to help Carter. She received all available services twice a week through them and also received developmental therapy and additional speech therapy through Tennessee Early Intervention System. Carter was progressing, slowly, but surely. Physically she was catching up to her peers, but was still nonverbal. In 2018, two very special ladies and educators opened up our area’s first inclusionary preschool. It was at Shine Preschool where we were able to see all of the hard work that Carter was putting in come together. She was beginning to sign and communicate with us and in October, I received a video from Shine and it was a video of Carter counting to 10! We had no idea she could even speak, let alone count! It was an answered prayer! From that day on, Carter’s vocabulary has grown exponentially and she has so much knowledge. It is absolutely incredible!

Fast forward to 2020, we had some friends whose son attended Empower Me’s Summer Day Camp the previous summer and it was through them that we were first introduced to the amazingness that is Empower Me. They had so many positive things to say about camp and all of the wonderful individuals that put it on. It has always been our goal to provide every opportunity for Carter to be successful, so we knew that as soon as she was eligible, we would get her enrolled.

In June 2021, Carter showed up to her first day of Empower Me’s Summer Day Camp and I immediately knew that she was surrounded by people who would love her, care for her, and push her to grow in her deficit areas. It was also so very comforting to know that Carter could be exactly who she was made to be and that they had experience in teaching and working with children just like her! She completed four weeks of camp and looked forward to going each and every day. Carter made so many friends and memories in her first summer there.

This past summer, Carter was able to spend 6 weeks at camp and she has flourished socially, emotionally, mentally, and physically thanks to all of the service providers and leaders. In August, Carter was enrolled in Kindergarten and is thriving in all areas because of the love, vision, and joint effort of Empower Me Center, Dynamic Therapy Center, and Shine Preschool.

Our family is so thankful for Empower Me, we have had an amazing experience and we look forward to summers at camp and many more years as a part of the Empower Me family. -Courtney

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