Autumn is a happy and interactive 11 year old with a bright smile. She is determined, very lovable and loves to go places and meet new people. Autumn also has a rare genetic disorder that is still not well understood in the medical field. As a result, she has multiple developmental delays and needs to be supervised at all times for her safety. After a few fits and starts at her local school, her parents made the decision to homeschool her to maximize her opportunities.
Autumn has been attending KEEN programs in Baltimore for the past two years, where she is always paired one to one with volunteer coaches to participate, exercise and have fun. KEEN is the only program where Chrystal, her mom, feels confident she is in a safe and nurturing environment and where she doesn’t need to assist her daughter. Autumn’s favorite activity at KEEN is to play Duck Duck Goose with her friends.
Since March, Autumn has been attending KEEN virtual sessions. Chrystal shared with us: “Thank you so much, we are so appreciative of KEEN, and thank you especially for continuing programs virtually [during the pandemic]. It gives us some time to do something else while Autumn is busy doing something worthwhile and healthy.”
Chrystal sees many benefits in her daughter participating in KEEN programs. She has seen improvements in her physical abilities and in her social skills and interactions. Chrystal also said: “She is more confident thanks to KEEN. Before, she had an interest in sports, but she was intimidated and didn’t dare to try. Now, she’ll boast about how fast she can run, how quick she is at something!”
Equally important, she feels KEEN has been instrumental in helping her social skills. In Chrystal’s words: “Children at KEEN are more accepting because they each deal with their own disabilities, they don’t ask questions on abilities or lack thereof. Because all the kids come regularly, they get to know each other, become familiar, friendly, engage with each other socially.”
When asked about the importance of KEEN programs being offered free of charge, she answered: “It makes a difference. KEEN is so beneficial for our daughter, we would try to pay for it if we had to, but it really helps that it is free, especially now, during the pandemic.”
She concluded saying that KEEN is unique because of the dedicated volunteers and staff, the friendly atmosphere, and the respect for the kids. She said: “They are each seen as individuals, and KEEN adapts to each child and to their needs.”