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A Family’s Fresh Start

A photo of the Vaithilingham family: Jenny, Darren and their son Elias

When Elias Vaithilingham was one, his parents, Jenny and Darren, noticed he was very sensitive to sound and light, would not always make eye contact and would master a new skill but then would regress and have to learn it again.

When he was two-and-a-half, they tried putting him into a preschool near their home. After just two days, the school informed them they could not care for Elias’ needs. Jenny and Darren took him to the Ron Joyce Children’s Health Centre in Hamilton for speech and language testing. The therapist said Elias was speaking at the level of a one-year-old. They also noticed signs of autism and recommended putting Elias into child care, as it would help improve his social and communication skills.

Elias started at the Flamborough Family YMCA Child Care Centre. “Within the first three months, we saw changes in Elias. The staff are amazing with him,” said Jenny. “Every day, we heard that Elias learned this or did that. He has been in the program for a year and is now almost at the speaking level of a three-year-old. He has learned social skills and his behaviour improved. The specialists are amazed by the leaps and bounds he has made. It has been incredible.”

Elias will enter junior kindergarten in September. “If the Y hadn’t worked so well with Elias, if he didn’t get in there when we got him in there, he would not be ready for kindergarten,” says Jenny, a former early childhood educator.

Nikki Pocsai, the child care centre’s supervisor, says staff helped Elias learn to interact with other kids working on turn taking and introducing phrases so he could join social interactions. “The educators started to build relationships with him and guided him through this process. Elias is a quick learner and easily found his place. He has built meaningful friendships. Now, Elias is sought out by his friends and if he is away, the children will often ask if he will be back soon.”

“The growth that I have seen in Elias is immeasurable and it brings me such joy to know that the YMCA has played a part in that growth.”

The YMCA is helping the Vaithilinghams in other ways, too. Jenny, who has an autoinflammatory disease that affects her joints, is on disability leave from her job and is no longer able to work in a classroom.

“I am trying to work toward a new future and my husband has gone back to school to help our family,” she said. “The Y is helping us with its belief that no one gets turned away, by giving us a membership at a cost we can afford.”

Elias takes swimming lessons at the YMCA and Jenny, who cannot always afford physiotherapy treatments, exercises in the pool and does aqua fit classes.

“The Y is helping us in many, many ways,” Jenny said. “I really believe that because of how the Y works, our family is getting a fresh start. We are supported while working toward a better future.”