Renee Boyle is Development Director for the Falls Church-McLean Children’s Center, a recipient of a 2016 Community Investment Fund Grant from the Community Foundation.

Call to mind the iconic scene from the classic movie The Miracle Worker in which Anne Sullivan teaches the blind-deaf child Helen Keller that liquid flowing from a pump has a name. “W-a-t-e-r,” Sullivan spells into Helen’s hand.

Until that triumphant “ah-ha” moment, young Helen had been unable to connect in a meaningful way with the world outside herself.

Although each child with developmental delays has a unique set of challenges, children today are similarly disconnected socially from peers, emotionally from parents, and intellectually from even the best learning environment, until their needs can be identified and addressed with appropriate therapy.

Imagine their struggles:

Fearing an unpredictable outburst, classmates refuse to play with a child with delays.

Unable to stay focused, a child with delays misses the meaning of the story that his teacher reads, then is lost when the class draws the scenes on paper.

At home, usual evening routines can start calmly but become exhausting when the ordinary bath water is too loud or pajamas are too scratchy for a child with sensory issues. Child and parent are at odds and loving, learning activities like reading a book before bedtime never happen.

The Community Foundation for Northern Virginia’s grant to the Falls Church-McLean Children’s Center provides a promising change for these children. The FCMCLCC2grant will fund critical speech and language therapy, occupational therapy, or behavioral counseling for the growing numbers of young children attending the Center who are being identified with developmental delays.

The Children’s Center’s more than 30 years of experience has shown that with targeted therapy, reinforced by practice in the classroom, more than 80% of children who start with delays can overcome them and build their needed social, language, literacy, and physical skills to expected levels before they leave for kindergarten.

These are tremendous lessons for children to master while they also are learning the names for numbers, in English and Spanish, and perfecting their method of zipping their jackets. Yet, once children have the “ah-ha” moment like Helen, they can tap the learning opportunities awaiting them high-quality, early childhood education classrooms, and many more classrooms in their future.

The results often seem like a miracle.