Oakwood Center for Exceptional Families helps those with special needs children

In Health Works, there is a place that recognizes when you're raising a special needs child, it's the whole family that needs special attention. 

Jessi Gielow was born with Pitt-Hopkins Syndrome, a rare condition that causes severe developmental delays.

"She was only the 200th case in the world," said mom Angie Gielow. "So there wasn't a lot of information, but I really was at a point where I did not even think she would sit up."

Today, as a curious 7-year-old, Jessi is now sitting up on her own, feeding herself and walking with a little help.

She's been coming to Oakwood's Center for Exceptional Families since she was 9 months old and her parents believe it has turned Jessi's life around. 

"(Jessi) has always surprised me with new and amazing abilities," said Dr. Susan Youngs from the center. "She just continues to astound me with her progress."

The center is one of the few places that offers medical care, therapy and support groups all under one roof.

And the real focus is on the entire family.

"Anytime a child with a developmental disability is born into a family, it changes the entire family," Youngs said. "The marriage struggles, finances change, the relationship between the siblings and the child with special needs has lots of different dynamics."

Jessi's 10-year-old brother, Jack, has been able to find comfort  in one of the center's support groups called "Sib Shop."

"(We talk about) what disability they have, and what they can and cannot do," said Jack Gielow.

"I love that he's able to go there every other month and share that with friends that he's made, and talk about Jessi and how it affects him," Angie said. 

As Jessi keeps improving, her parents are learning how to navigate raising a child with special needs. 

"We help them make good decisions about which therapies are important and when they can rest," Youngs said. "When is the time to hit certain develop milestones hard, and when is a time for them to take a break,  and just be a family together at home."  

"What I like about the center is that we aren't just a number," said dad John Gielow. "You know, it has kind of made us feel like a family."

For more information about Oakwood's Center for Exceptional Families - http://www.oakwood.org/cef

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