Tomicha brings a whole new meaning to the word supermom. Along with meeting the demands of her full-time job, she’s also finishing her degree—all while raising two boys.
Despite her hectic schedule, she makes a point of being present when she’s with her sons. On any given weekend, you can catch her with 13-year-old AJ and 7-year-old Avery playing at a nearby park, exploring the art museum or enjoying one of the many family-friendly activities Cincinnati has to offer.
“I think that’s what my kids appreciate the most,” Tomicha says. “They know I’m here for them.”
As the world speeds by, Tomicha makes sure she and her boys slow down for some much-needed family time. It’s no easy task when you add appointments at Cincinnati Children’s to their busy routine. Both AJ and Avery are seen in our Division of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics (DDBP), and making sure they receive the best care is a top priority for Tomicha.
AJ was 3 years old when she noticed he wasn’t meeting certain speech milestones. Their pediatrician referred them to our DDBP, where we diagnosed him with intellectual and speech disabilities. Avery, her youngest, was later diagnosed with autism.
“When you’re a parent of children with special needs, no one gives you a manual,” Tomicha says. “You don’t understand it until you live it.”
Pioneers in Multidisciplinary Care
For the late Jack H. Rubinstein, MD, helping children like AJ and Avery was his calling and his passion. He’s remembered as a visionary leader who first recognized the need for interdisciplinary care for children with developmental disorders. He spent his career guiding parents and their children through a world that lacked understanding.
His work led him to Cincinnati Children’s, where he brought together specialists across multiple disciplines to create care plans based on each child’s specific needs and strengths. His legacy of collaborative care continues today.
"We have such incredible collaboration between our medical providers, psychologists, speech pathologists, occupational and physical therapists, and even our dietitians,” explains Jennifer Bekins, speech pathology coordinator in DDBP. “Instead of a family feeling like they have to do all these things at once, we help them take it one step at a time."
A Grateful Family Gives Back
They say it takes a village to raise a child. But families with special needs may need a little more support—especially for single parents like Tomicha.
Last year, she made the important decision to enroll AJ in a private school. Though it would take a toll on the family finances and mean rearranging schedules, she knew it was the best path for her son.
“AJ loves his school, but it’s a lot of work. And it’s been even more work since Avery was diagnosed,” Tomicha says. “More doctor appointments, more speech therapy, more occupational therapy—sometimes I don’t know if I physically have it in me, but I’ve been doing it. Whatever I’ve got to do for my children, that’s what I do.”
Tomicha is committed to her sons, and she also gives back by helping families on similar journeys. That’s why she sits on our DDBP family advisory council—to help build a strong community of care.
“Kids with special needs often get overlooked because they’re different. We have to learn to accept people for exactly who they are and help them thrive,” Tomicha encourages.
A Lasting Legacy
Seeing children as unique individuals and giving them the best care possible is Dr. Rubinstein’s legacy, and the mission of the foundation that bears his name.
To further his vision of improving care for families like Tomicha’s, the Jack Rubinstein Foundation for Developmental Disorders (JRFDD) gave one of the largest gifts the medical center has ever received: $8.8 million to support DDBP’s vital work.
The gift will ensure we can continue to deliver best-in-class care across multiple divisions, allowing our experts to take a critical look at how we can advance treatment, research and innovation as leaders in treating kids with developmental disabilities.
“By partnering with the hospital, we’re able to optimize our support for this special population of children,” says Marty Fritsch, JRFDD president. “This gift ensures the foundation’s vision and Dr. Rubinstein’s legacy of comprehensive care will continue to impact the lives of children and young adults for decades to come.”
DDBP’s home at 3430 Burnet Avenue was renamed in honor of Dr. Rubinstein. The division will bear the name of Sonya G. Oppenheimer, MD, Dr. Rubinstein’s successor and an unsung hero in the field of developmental pediatrics.
Looking to our children’s future, one of our most ambitious aspirations is advancing care in the areas of mind, brain and behavior. The research we do for children with developmental disabilities, supported by JRFDD’s generous gift, will be an important part of this work.
Hope for a Brighter Future
Tomicha understands the importance of advancing care and supporting families of children with disabilities. Just last summer, Avery had to have leg surgery to help him walk better. And AJ is currently on the wait list for his next round of speech therapy. It’s a lot for one family to handle.
“It’s tough when you have kids with special needs because you feel alone,” Tomicha shares. “You feel like you’re in a bubble, but Cincinnati Children’s helps us get out of that bubble.”
Tomicha looks at her sons and recognizes that their conditions don’t define them or their future. AJ loves music and is thinking about taking piano lessons this year. Avery, now in second grade, wants to be a police officer when he grows up.
“I encourage college, if that’s what they want to do,” Tomicha says. “I want them to be successful and independent, but my biggest hope is that they’re happy.”
It’s a hope Dr. Rubinstein had for all kids like AJ and Avery. And thanks to the legacy he’s built, one we can all work together to make a reality.
For more information on how you can support DDBP, please contact Doug Martin at 513-636-1994 or firstname.lastname@example.org.