AEA sees progress through inclusion

Collaboration between family, teachers helps student advance


Prairie Lakes Area Education Agency

Although school has dismissed for the summer, it also brings a time to reflect and celebrate progress.

Braxton Charon, son of Adam and Lindsay Charon of Fort Dodge, attended a 4-year old preschool program at Riverside Elementary in Fort Dodge. His teacher, Michelle Willett, has been working with him for two years and has seen tremendous growth in skills, confidence and happiness as the team worked to discover how to best help Braxton.

While he has no official diagnosis, there are delays and discrepancies between Braxton and his peers. He has been served since he was a toddler through Early ACCESS, a system of services provided through Prairie Lakes Area Education Agency that helps infants and toddlers with, or at risk, for developmental delays or disabilities. As he moved to preschool age, staff from Prairie Lakes AEA continued to provide support.

“When I first met Braxton, he was frustrated and completely non-verbal,” said Marcie Lentsch, early childhood literacy consultant from Prairie Lakes AEA. “He hit and screamed, and had tantrums … all because he couldn’t communicate and express himself,”

Braxton has made tremendous progress during his time in Willett’s classroom. He can interact and answer questions, knows all letters and the sounds they make, and asks for help rather than throwing tantrums.

“Environment matters,” Lentsch said. “He’s picking up language and social skills from his peers just by being in the same classroom. “

Lexi Messerly, a paraeducator who works with Braxton, is impressed with the expansion of his vocabulary. “He could only say, ‘Yeah,’ and now he is repeating back words, and trying to say everyone’s name.”

“He has matured so much,” Willett said. “He is super happy, outgoing, and just loves everyone. We continue to work on numbers and learning how to spell his name.”

Braxton is headed to Cooper Elementary in the fall where he will be in a special education classroom with integration into the kindergarten classroom.

“Braxton is The Promise of Iowa because he is an example of how much of a difference we can all make in the eyes of one child,” Lentsch said. “I love the collaboration team work between family, teachers, Early ACCESS and PLAEA has been able to provide to him to become successful.”