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“I don’t know where we’d be without Sunshine School.”

31 Years of Miracles

It’s 1987, and Shelby Presley is bringing her 6-week old daughter, Emily, home from the hospital in Little Rock. It’s been a difficult six weeks. Emily has serious brain damage, and doctors don’t give a very hopeful outlook for her future. “They told us to just take her home, love her, and don’t expect much,” recalls Shelby, now sitting in the lobby of Sunshine School & Development Center. They predicted she would never walk, talk, or be able to see.

Just two weeks later, Linda Steadman, a Physical Therapist with Sunshine School, came to their house to start in-home therapy with baby Emily. Shelby looks back on those first weeks at home and says, “Sunshine School came to help so quickly that I never even had time to worry about how to help my Emily.” From there the dedicated staff from Sunshine School walked with the family through all the highs and lows. Emily and later her two little sisters, Lauren and Kaitlin, all went to preschool at Sunshine School. Kaitlin was in the inaugural Preschool Enrichment Program for “typically developing” students.

Shelby recalls when doctors wouldn’t prescribe Emily glasses because her brain damage was thought to prevent processing of light and color. The Sunshine School preschool teachers knew what to look for and noticed Emily tracking objects so they wrote a letter to Emily’s doctor begging him to prescribe glasses. After some time wearing her new lenses, Emily knew her colors and the teachers wrote to the doctor to celebrate her growth and thank him for trusting their recommendation. Shelby remarks, “I’m just so thankful for how they advocated for Emily!”

Now, 31-year-old Emily lives in her own home with the support of Sunshine School & Development Center’s Community Support program. She is able to get out in the community and attends aqua therapy weekly. Shelby says she’s thankful for Emily’s Direct Support Professionals because they help Emily from being lonely and bored.

In one of the therapy rooms, Shelby laughs and Emily smiles as she lifts a ball above her head and throws it to her mom. Emily exclaims, “I did it!” She has certainly done more than they ever imagined when Shelby brought her home from the hospital 31 years ago. Shelby helps lift Emily out of her wheelchair and together they walk across the room. You can see how proud Shelby is of her daughter and all the milestones Emily has accomplished as she says, “I don’t know where we’d be without Sunshine School.”

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