Military families face many challenges. From moving to a new town every two to four years to adjusting to the deployment of a family member, military families’ lives are in constant change that affects young children in different ways.
For young Auriah Ahasteen, those changes affected her speech development.
Auriah was 2 years old when her family moved from California to a U.S. Army base in North Carolina.
“She was used to having a big family around, so when we moved, it was hard on her,” said her mother, Heather Ahasteen. “She stopped talking.”
When the family relocated to Arizona two years later, Ahasteen enrolled Auriah into the White Mountain Apache Tribe Head Start in Whiteriver. The Head Start is a part of First Things First’s signature program, Quality First. Quality First funds quality improvements that research proves help children thrive, such as training for teachers to expand their skills and to help create learning environments that nurture the emotional, social and academic development of every child.
At the time, Auriah wasn’t able to speak in full sentences or put sounds together. Unable to communicate with her teachers or peers, the 4-year-old would act out in frustration. Teachers evaluated Auriah’s speech and recommended a speech therapist. They also encouraged Ahasteen to read with her daughter daily.
“I still read with her every day,” her mother said. “She loves to read.”
Slowly, Auriah’s speech improved.
“I feel like we really benefitted from this program,” Ahasteen said. “The teachers knew how to teach Auriah to calm herself, so her behavior problems decreased. They worked with her one-on-one to improve her communication.”
Now Auriah is age 6 and in the first grade. She’s doing well academically and socially. Ahasteen credits the teachers at the Quality First Head Start for preparing Auriah for elementary school.