Selfless, loving and strong – a few words you might use on this Mother’s Day to honor the amazing loved one in your life that goes above and beyond to help you succeed. Penny Parsons, a Revenue Assurance & Meter Quality Specialist, is one of those special moms. About 18 years ago, she was a new single mom learning how to balance her job responsibilities and raise her 2-year-old son, Dayne, and 4-year-old daughter, Rikki. On top of those challenges, she learned from daycare personnel that Dayne was showing signs of being a child with special needs.
“I thought he had a hearing problem, but he passed his hearing tests,” said Penny. “I knew something was wrong but wasn’t sure what was going on. One day he was developing fine and then suddenly he was very different. He wasn’t responsive. I had no way to communicate with him.”
With the daycare not equipped to work with children with special needs, she didn’t know where to turn. Fortunately, a friend at work told her about the Brighton Center, which provides educational services for children with disabilities and developmental delays. Staff helped her qualify for free services and kindly walked her through those first scary moments.
“I didn’t have anyone in my family with special needs, so it was very scary for me,” said Penny. “They let me know that 95 percent of a child’s brain development happens before the age of 5. I knew I was in a time crunch, but I was fortunate to find out my son had a developmental disorder early enough to instill whatever I could in him.”
During weekly visits, Brighton Center staff taught Penny how to communicate with Dayne. She learned basic sign language and different exercises to encourage him to speak. If Dayne reached for an apple, Penny turned it into a teachable moment and encouraged him to pronounce the word. Brighton Center supplied her with learning tools like a laminated word picture book. She also learned how to help him overcome sensory issues. To help him get used to touch, she gently stroked his arms with a small brush – the same kind parents use on their newborns.
At the age of 5, Dayne was diagnosed with high-functioning autism. The consistent speech and occupational therapy provided him with a strong foundation to start school.
“Brighton Center was there for me when no one else knew how to help me,” said Penny. “Their proactive, immediate approach provided Dayne with a solid foundation. I’m eternally grateful.”
Penny’s family is one of many Brighton Center has helped in our community. Last year, the agency provided therapy services to nearly 2,000 babies and toddlers to get them back on track developmentally. Their nationally accredited program for children, both with and without disabilities, advances the development of every child. Recognizing this nonprofit and the amazing work it does, CPS Energy designated the Brighton Center to receive over $100,000 in proceeds from the annual United Way golf tournament held earlier this month. The funds will help expand their services to an additional 600 children.
Penny, who has been with CPS Energy for 26 years, was overjoyed to see things come full circle.
“It warms my heart to know CPS Energy is supporting Brighton Center and families like mine,” said Penny. “It’s a privilege to work for a company that does so much for our community. If it wasn’t for Brighton, I don’t think Dayne would be in the place he is today.”
Penny flashes a big, broad smile as she talks about her son and the responsible, hard-working young man he’s become. Dayne enjoys his part-time job as a busser at Jason’s Deli and stays busy helping around the house with chores. Last week, he competed with his soccer team, The Ninjas, at the 50th Anniversary of the Special Olympics held at the STAR Soccer Complex. Like all great moms cheering from the sidelines, Penny beamed with pride as Dayne’s team was awarded a gold medal.
CPS Energy wishes Penny and every mom a happy Mother’s Day! Thank you for inspiring us every day to love well and succeed in life.