The Story Behind HOOT for Kids
By: Lori Stowe, Co-Founder
The best day of my life was when I gave birth to our son, Connor. He immediately illuminated our world and brought a joy that I had never known before. As a first time mom, I read, researched, listened, and studied his every move, probably to a fault. My intentions were true and good though, as I wanted to be a wonderful mommy to this precious little boy.
After just a month or so, we noticed that Connor was fascinated with looking to the side and staring closely at objects such his changing table, his car seat, etc. We chalked it up to being the patterns on them, but the look on his face almost appeared that he was in a different world in these moments. Our beautiful boy was delayed in speaking. At about 1.5 years old, we noticed that he was drawn to shapes and had an amazing affection for music. His actions at first made us think that we had a little Einstein on our hands. It wasn’t until he started walking that we noticed that he would regularly position himself very close to any wall, cupboard, or fence and walk along side of it with his head turned sideways, just staring. He was also very enthralled with spinning in circles any chance he could. At this point, we figured he was “stimming” (repetitive movements common in individuals that have autistic spectrum disorders, such as hand flapping or spinning wheels) and that he may be autistic. We were madly in love with this angel, but still devastated and scared at the same time.
We didn’t really know where to turn. We were faced with waiting lists to see the specialists and couldn’t find help fast enough. We stumbled upon a research study by a renowned university that openly took Connor for an immediate evaluation. They deemed him to be moderately at risk for being on the autistic spectrum at just 20 months old. They recommended ABA, OT, and Speech Therapy and guided us to the proper facilities. One of these facilities was a local non-profit occupational pediatric clinic, which is where I met my HOOT for Kids partner, Lisa.
When my husband, mother, Connor and I all walked in for Connor’s Occupational Therapy (OT) evaluation with Lisa, she was poised, confident, and immediately gave us hope. She took the time to share a story of a little boy that she treated at an early age that a couple years later she ran into and he was perfectly fine. Right off the bat she was able to identify the areas that Connor was delayed in or needed added help with, including sensory integration. She began working with Connor and our family twice a week. Over the course of the year, not only did she gain Connor’s trust, but mine as well. As Connor grew in every area, I learned right alongside of him. The progress that Connor made working with Lisa was miraculous. I no longer felt scared and uncertain, but felt like we had a newfound direction and set of goals. Not only did I gain an immense respect for Lisa’s professional ability with children and their parents, but I appreciated the love that she gave to us and the other children that she worked with. With every visit she demonstrated her keen ability to identify with those in need.
As Lisa would coach me on exercises to perform at home, she would advise me on what toys to select for Connor and how to best utilize them to his benefit. I didn’t realize it originally, but there were several toys that we had that really weren’t benefiting Connor and were actually a possible hindrance to his development. Through Lisa’s mentoring, I saw her passion for toys and for educating others on how to properly interact with them. Seeing how Connor benefited from her guidance made me realize that all children and parents, regardless of their developmental stage, would benefit from this knowledge. When I approached Lisa with this idea, she immediately responded that we could call it HOOT for Hands On Occupational Therapy. She of course knew my son has affection for owls, so hearing HOOT so quickly roll off her tongue was just the reassurance I needed to know that this was a joint venture that we had to embark upon to share with others the benefits that I have personally experienced.
At his most recent and final evaluation at the research study center when he was just over 3 years old, they deemed him to be off of the spectrum. I’m blessed and ecstatic to share with the world that in every area he has now caught up or even exceeded the goals for his age. We now have a happy little chatterbox that is the sweetest boy that a mom could hope for. He is musically gifted, bright, and a very loving little boy with an amazing future ahead!
My hope is that now we can share HOOT for Kids with not only families in need with developmental delays, but also with families with no known delays per say but that can still benefit from the proper quality toy selections, activities and play tips. Not to mention, what child wouldn’t love receiving a box full of great toys with Hootie the owl all over the box?! Our sincere wish is that your child may benefit from this expertise as my child has. HOOT HOOT Hooray!