The Most Rewarding Job of All
ALowcountry native, Candace Bird loved her Carolina home, but moved away for a career as an internet technical recruiter with such clients as Microsoft and Eli Lilly. After seven years she and her husband, Kent, had grown tired of the corporate lifestyle, and Kent's dream was to move back to the island and become a boat captain.
The couple moved back to Hilton Head Island from Virginia in 1983. Candace telecommuted within the southeast region for a few more years, but in 2003, gave birth to her first son, Hayden. She gradually phased out her recruiting work, done from home, but her entrepreneurial spirit wasn't easily quashed. Candace had an E-Bay business, and launched Island Pet Nanny, which she has since sold.
"At first, this business worked well for a mom with a newborn, because I could push Hayden in the stroller and walk someone's dog. As the service grew, however, pushing a stroller while walking several dogs, wasn't so feasible," Candace laughed.
Meanwhile, Candace and Kent, with the help of their pediatrician, noticed that Hayden (then 18 months old) had begun some troublesome behaviors such as spinning toys and fleeting eye contact. Those, combined with a speech delay, had Candace looking for answers. Dr. Jane Charles of MUSC, who practices pediatric developmental behavioral health at the hospital, provided direction, giving Hayden a definitive diagnosis of autism.
"Even prior to the diagnosis, we had already sprung into action, because of Hayden's speech delay. He needed speech and occupational therapy, and we were already receiving it from Hilton Head Hospital's Rehabilitation Clinic," Candace explained. "But the diagnosis helped us figure out the direction we needed to go."
Preschool required further navigation, adding an assistant or "shadow" who provided the occasional behavioral redirection or prompting when needed. The family added in Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA), a one-on-one teaching method designed to build a wide range of important skills while reducing problem behavior in people with autism and related disorders of all ages.
With this intensive early intervention, improvements were amazing, and Hayden was able to be mainstreamed, now attending first grade with no shadow.
Recently Candace took Hayden and his younger 18 month-old brother, Harrison, to the Harbour Town Playground. She witnessed a situation that two years ago would have required intervention. She watched the scene unfold, with her breath held: Hayden was climbing where a younger child blocked his way, unmoving. Hayden kindly said, "Hey little buddy, would you move, please?" Candace gave a smile and a sigh of relief! "This is where sometimes a child with autism might have trouble expressing how to overcome an obstacle in a socially appropriate way..and he did it!" Candace exclaimed.
Candace got involved with the Lowcountry Autism Foundation (LAF), a local non-profit organization that helps individuals and families living with autism in the Lowcountry. LAF's mission is to provide direct financial, service and advocacy support to those who face the challenges of living with autism.
She was a volunteer for two years when Executive Director Tripp Ritchie asked her to chair the Development Committee and become Vice President of the organization, to which she agreed.
"I love Lowcountry Autism Foundation and what it does. Among other things, we bridge the gap when hospitals have waiting lists for screenings and assessments, and our assessment team of doctors and experts steps in. In fact, LAF receives referrals from MUSC when their waiting list is long, so we definitely work in concert so that families can receive an accurate diagnosis. Then, with early intervention, each child is ensured the best possible outcome. We also hold events for families that enrich the lives of these wonderful kids."
In addition to Candace's work with LAF, she is a realtor and part-time pre-school teacher. "My toddler, Harrison, just figured out that Mommy teaches across the hall, so I now get a frequent visitor to my classroom," Candace chuckled.
Time management is key to Candace's success, and throughout it all, her bubbly, upbeat personality shines. Even as busy as she is, Candace will tell you that mothering is a full-time job. and her most rewarding one.
Come to the Third Annual Lowcountry
Autism Foundation SPRING FLING!
What: Dinner, Dancing, Drinks and Silent Auction
Fundraiser for Lowcountry Autism Foundation
When: Saturday, May 8, 2010
Where: Port Royal Clubhouse, Hilton Head Island
Details: $75/person which can be purchased at the Lowcountry Autism Foundation - Port Royal and Hilton Head Island Pediatric Therapy Center - Hilton Head Island
Call: 843.524.5234 or 843.342.9000
Live Entertainment, Dancing, Dinner and Drinks Included!