Sandra Dodgens was taking a break from being a foster parent after the heartbreak of losing a child with cerebral palsy, when a social worker called her about a pair of 3-year-old twins in critical need. It was in the late 1990s.

The previous foster parent had them for 30 hours and gave up. The boys had severe developmental delays with possible autism and dyslexia. They didn’t communicate except for twin-speak and were not potty trained. Dodgens decided to help. She knew she would need help for the challenge ahead, and one of the people she turned to was Patricia Snyder, an early intervention provider then, and now a University of Florida early childhood studies researcher.

“These babies had been kept in a vacuum, they were non-verbal and likely headed to special education classes,” Dodgens said. “But I knew Dr. Snyder was on the cutting edge of work with parental involvement, and she had strategies we could use.”

Dodgens began labeling the boys’ environment; chair, table, bed… and teaching them to speak and how to behave. There were small changes immediately and she documented the boys’ progress week-by-week.

They flourished as a family and by the time the boys were 9, she had adopted them. Today, she is the proud mom of two thriving young adults. Read more in The Early Years (pdf).