This is Leah Reichenberger’s sixth summer working as a Direct Service Professional, but her passion for working with children with special needs started when she was just a child herself. “My mom’s best friend had a baby when I was in 6th grade,” said Leah. “She was born with Down Syndrome and she is my absolute best friend. She inspired me to work with kiddos who are just like her. (She is actually the cutie in the picture with me).”
COVID-19 changed Rainbows’ normal summer camp routine to an in-home summer services program. Unlike previous years when Leah was one of many DSP’s working with a hundred campers at Rainbows’ Kids’ Cove, she now creates an individualized summer camp experience for two Rainbows’ children right in their homes.
“A normal work day for my Monday, Wednesday, Friday consists of swinging on Ryan’s swing in his backyard, playing with his little puppies, riding with him on his four-wheeler, and playing with sensory bags,” said Leah. “He also loves to be tickled and has the best laugh. It’ll make you smile right away.”
“Tuesday and Thursdays, my other kiddo loves to stay on schedule,” she said. “Holly really enjoys the crafts that Rainbows provides for us each week. She is the most amazing artist. You ask her to draw anything, and she’ll be able to draw it without even looking at a picture of it or even needing to trace it. She really enjoys jumping on her trampoline, dancing, singing, and going on daily walks. Although she misses her camp buddies, she is doing fantastic this summer.”
Forming relationships is Leah’s favorite part of working at Rainbows. “I would say my biggest achievement is listening to my clients,” she said. “If a kiddo is upset you cannot assume they are just throwing a fit to throw a fit; something is bothering them, especially a kiddo who is nonverbal and cannot communicate what is upsetting them. It is important to understand your clients, know their likes and dislikes, and truly get to know them.”
Leah will graduate from Wichita State this fall with a Bachelor’s Degree in Elementary Physical Education. She enjoys running and working out, take her dogs on walks, and riding her ripstik. “With all the free time lately, I’m really becoming a pro at the ripstik,” she laughed. “I am the youngest of six kids. Each of us are 2 years apart which made the house very hectic and extremely entertaining. Now I have 3 nephews and 1 niece and they light up my world!”