Movers & Makers, Inc. is a nonprofit organization created by three moms in Miami who each have a child with some form of exceptionality, special need, or learning disability.
The goal of Movers & Makers, Inc. is to provide guidance and support, to families whose children have similar needs for support as well as financial assistance for diagnosis, Speech Pathology, Occupational Therapy, Physical Therapy, and other forms of assistance and support.
Additionally, Movers & Makers, Inc. has partnered with multiple legal professionals and child advocates to help parents in the process of receiving an Individual Education Plan (IEP), Behavior Improvement Plan (BIP) or 504 accommodation.
Annette Balestra is a mother to two beautiful boys, Dean (8) and Dominic (3).
Dean was diagnosed in May 2016, just before his 7th birthday, with Dyslexia, Dysgraphia and also suffers with Executive Functioning delays. He has always struggled to read and spell (Dyslexia), writing was extremely labored for him (Dysgraphia), struggled with organization and staying on task in life and in school. Dean was regarded as "lazy" by his first-grade teacher which was upsetting, not only to him but his parents. If any knew Dean, it was mom. Annette witnessed how hard Dean worked just to write simple sentences and how frustrated he became with himself for not being able to read the words on the pages of his favorite books. He exhausted every effort, while struggling, in completing seemingly simple tasks. Dean was anything but lazy, he was one of the hardest working kids in his class.
Annette also noticed just how smart her son was. During his evaluation, his IQ was scored in the Superior category at 120. She realized that this was how Dean had managed his way through Kindergarten undetected. His comprehension, when read to, was outstanding which is uncommon for a dyslexic child. His vocabulary was
beyond his peers and his math abilities were superior when it did not include word problems where reading was involved. But, all his strengths were shadowed by his weaknesses in school.
Annette and her husband, Cliff, worked tirelessly to provide everything possible in order to help Dean. Insurance did not cover evaluations or services he needed such as his Physic-Ed evaluation, Speech Therapy or Occupational Therapy. In addition to these services, Dean desperately needed some form of tutoring. As a family they found it very difficult to find reliable resources to help them through the countless questions they had. They felt lost! Then the school system meetings began.
Annette left her full-time job as a legal assistant and transitioned to a Real Estate Agent in order to have additional time to provide to Dean and his needs. She spent her first few months studying his diagnosis and finding ways to help Dean, she spent countless hours researching how to get through the IEP meetings with the public school system. It was exhausting mentally, emotionally and financially but worth every moment because it meant helping her son to the best of her ability.
Flash forward two years, a new school, and an amazing tutor. Dean is now receiving Honor Roll each quarter, he is happy, confident and most of all successful! Annette truly believes that his dyslexia will propel him to great things in the future, but first they continue on their journey with Dean to learn to work around his weaknesses and to find and build on his strengths.
Janice de Armas
Janice de Armas is passionate about early childhood education and focuses on the positive effect of early intervention using a multidisciplinary approach. Janice was the director of International Children’s School, in Coral Gables, Florida, for seven years. During her time as director, she helped many families navigate through the system for social services and helped countless children receive the diagnosis and therapy they needed, including her own.
In 2015, when her son, Charlie, was three years old, Janice noticed that he had aversions to several sensory stimuli, such as loud noises, sticky textures and slimy foods. More importantly, Charlie was becoming anxious by the constant sensory assault that was his everyday life in a busy household and preschool. He began having long, intense, drawn out melt downs. It took over a year for Charlie to be diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), anxiety, and Disruptive Mood Dysregulation Disorder (DMDD). Suddenly, Janice fund herself navigating the system she had referred so many families to, only to find that the process of advocating for her child is at best overwhelming, and more often, devastating. Once Charlie was diagnosed and began receiving the therapy he needed, he learned how to regulate his body and manage his impulsivity. Now,
Charlie is a happy, healthy and thriving kindergartener. The combination of navigating the labyrinth of the social services, doctors’ appointments and opinions coupled with the positive experience of seeing Charlie finally comfortable, happy and thriving inspired Janice to join the MoMa Movement and thus, Movers & Makers was born. The idea, is simply to help bridge the gap between the services that are provided to children with learning disabilities, and the services the child needs to overcome the challenges they face daily.
Marie is a mother to a wonderful boy, AJ (3). AJ deals with delays in speech and comprehension. At 3 years old, AJ struggles with communicating his feelings and needs and gets frustrated because he lacks the words to communicate clearly. Matt and Marie hid their fears and told each other that some kids speak sooner than others. It was only until AJ's school administrator approached Marie about getting her son checked for ASD. Wake up call! AJ's parents dealt with the feelings of guilt, fear, and blame for quite some time and then decided to take this pain and turn it into power. Costs of therapies are incredibly high and not covered by insurance. Most children (like Marie's son) end up lost in the state’s hands. Months of unanswered calls, emails, and frustrations with the state processes left her son even more behind then when they started the process. It was after her son’s diagnosis finally came in that Marie decided she needed to tell a different story.
Marie joined forces with two other extremely intelligent and passionate mothers dealing with their own children’s learning struggles. Together they decided it was best that we do something to help ALL children and their families as no child should be left behind and no parent should feel helpless and lost. We are still in the very beginning stages of this journey and it is a beautiful thing to be a part of a
community that supports parents and children struggling with the same types of issues. Marie is especially close to the MoMa Movement Method- classes created to help children find their own ways to create happiness through movement, music, exercise, dance, art and meditation. Marie's goal is to help build mentally strong, positive, compassionate, confident children and to be a source and reminder that there is nothing that they cannot be, do, or have!