"THEY HAVE AN UNSPOKEN, MUTUAL UNDERSTANDING OF EACH OTHER."
A 4-year-old boy with bright blonde hair and piercing blue eyes. Eyes that light up when his friend Elizabeth is nearby. Callen experienced severe medical issues around his first birthday that left him with stranger phobia, a feeding aversion and other developmental delays. For him, social situations could turn into personal nightmares. During his first year at Siskin Early Learning Center, Callen didn’t play much with his peers. Sometimes things at school make him upset and scared. And that’s where Elizabeth comes in.
"When Callen is upset, Elizabeth reaches out over the table and holds his hand," said Ms. Melisa, their teacher. She understands. For she has had her fair share of hardship. Born with a genetic condition that caused developmental delays and low muscle tone, Elizabeth had a double lung transplant at 15 months old. When she began at SELC, she too had little verbal skills and went place to place by "bottom scooting", making it difficult to keep up with other kids. And that’s where Callen comes in.
"I swing with her. I wait for her. I walk, and she rolls. Sometimes she’s so fast, I can’t keep up with her," Callen tells his mom after school one day. Elizabeth was out sick for a few days last year. Callen started asking about her and wondering when she was coming back to school. He was so worried about her that he made her a card and left it in her classroom cubbie. "I miss you when you’re not here." When asked what the best part of Callen’s day is, he consistently replies: "Elizabeth."