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Aidan’s journey


Aidan Mader loves learning with his LCBDD developmental specialist.


One of the biggest challenges for 3-year-old Aidan Mader about the COVID-19 pandemic is how much he misses his developmental specialist, Diane Dodson.

When he hears Diane’s voice over Zoom, he runs over to the screen to show her his dinosaurs and toys.

“He doesn’t usually warm up to people, he’s very shy,” said his mom Ashley Leggett. “But he warmed up to her right off the bat and it’s been wonderful.”

Diane, a member of the Licking County Board of Developmental Disabilities’ Early Childhood team, has been visiting with Aidan and his mother since December. Even with the pandemic, they’ve continued visits virtually.

“Diane has been wonderful, she has helped him through a ton,” Ashley said. “She’s made life easier and better for him.”

Ashley, and Aidan’s dad Jesse, first started receiving Early Childhood services from the Franklin County Board of Developmental Disabilities when Aidan was 2.

He’d had surgery to put tubes in his ears and doctors realized he had been having a hard time hearing — which was causing speech delays.

Aidan began receiving Early Intervention, which is offered in the homes of children, birth to age 3, with developmental delays, disabilities or medical conditions likely to result in delays.

When his family moved to Pataskala, Ashley wanted to make sure he continued to get Early Intervention in Licking County.

Diane was able to work with Ashley and Jesse to get Aidan started in preschool, which made a big difference.

“She’s helped me help him calm down, helped me understand him more,” Ashley said

She also helped identify that Aidan had a tongue-tie and sensory processing disorder, which helped explain his difficulty communicating and some of the frustration he was feeling.

“The most mind blowing thing is that when she first came, he would get angry and bite himself and hit himself,” she said “But we got him a weighted blanket, chewies and a hugging dinosaur that vibrates and now we have ways to help him calm down and talk him through it. It made it very easy.”

When Aidan turned 3, he transitioned out of Early Intervention but continued receiving support from Diane.

They were working on potty training when the coronavirus put an end to in-person visits.

But Diane continued to be there for them, helping Ashley find educational resources to supplement what Aidan was getting from his preschool and songs to help him feel comfortable going to the bathroom.

In the last few months, he’s made huge strides, she said.

“All of a sudden, he just started talking. A month before he was pointing and not really saying what he wanted,” Ashley said. “It’s been mind blowing. With Diane, everything finally came together.”

Although they miss seeing Diane in person, it has been great to continue virtual visits and see Aidan grow.

“Before I started this, I was scared and worried, but in the long run this has been an eye opener and a blessing,“ Ashley said. “Even when Diane sees me struggling, she always takes a step back and tells me I’m doing a great job and I’m a great mom. She’s truly been a blessing in my life. “

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