This is Nate at 19 months of age, when he began autism therapy.
And this is Nate today.
When Nate started therapy, he didn’t have the strength to lie on his belly to color. For a while there, his record time was lying down for five seconds with Ms. Alison, after which his face plunged into the ink-covered paper. (The ink rubbed off on his cheeks.)
Now Nate elects to lie on his belly to color!
When he was tested at eighteen months, Nate walked with his arms way up in the air, which Ms. Katy noted was the highest “high guard” she’d ever seen. He couldn’t manage the motor planning to navigate stairs and a brisk jog was out of his realm. Now Nate runs faster than we can catch him.
When Nate started therapy, it was so overwhelming that he needed to hide every five minutes or so. When a tent wasn’t available, Nate just put the blankets behind the couch over his face to tune out.
At the end of his Birth to Three therapy, Nate waited by the door to greet his therapists. (This is a picture of him eagerly awaiting Ms. Alison’s arrival for an 8AM Monday session. He thought he’d read the notes in one of his favorite DVDs while he waited.)
Nate’s therapists taught him to communicate through pictures and signing. When he graduated from Birth to Three, Nate was on PECS Phase IV, “speaking” in complete sentences and has a vocabulary of important signs including “eat,” “more,” “again,” “jump,” “bubbles,” “cookie,” “cup/drink,” “all done,” and others, which he can pair with the sign “I want” to form a complete thoughts. He can also signal that he would like a turn when sharing an activity with a friend.
They also taught Nate how to distally point at something that he wants and how to get the attention of an adult so that assistance can be provided. Nate is now a champion distal pointer and it’s a skill that his new pre-K teacher, Ms. Susie, noted most kids entering her program haven’t yet achieved. Way to be ahead of the curve, Nate!!!!
Our brilliant BCBA Colleen helped us wean Nate off of breastfeeding and, most importantly, got Nate to be able to go back to sleep at night without reliance upon drinking milk from a bottle or the breast. She also helped us understand the root of Nate’s self-injurious behavior–frustration at not being able to communicate– and devised the most clever way for Nate to get our attention — wireless doorbells, which helped to extinguish headbanging.
Ms. Marilyn introduced Nate to his all-time favorite book, Goodnight, Moon.
And Nate mastered “high five,” even with giant costumed Disney characters.
Over eighteen months’ time, Nate was taught by two developmental therapists (Ms. Lisa, Ms. Alison) two early intervention assistants ( Ms. Marilyn and Ms. Rachel); four BCBA’s, most notably Ms. Colleen and Ms. Liz; an occupational therapist (Ms. Katy); a speech pathologist (Ms. Susan); and a school psychologist (Ms. Carmelia), who helped our family understand the public school system and our legal rights within it. At the end, it was a core team of six: our noble service coordinator Ms. Lisa who, in addition to working with Nate, managed all of our paperwork, led our monthly meetings, and steered our ship straight, Ms. Alison, Ms. Katy, Ms. Marilyn, Ms. Susan, and Ms. Carmelia. For the miracles that these women pull off and their undying dedication to the field, it is impossible for these women to ever be paid enough — and it is equally impossible for us to demonstrate our gratitude. They have become family, getting me and Chad through very difficult times and celebrating with us in the best of times. In addition, we have (literally) celebrated marriage, gone through divorce, mourned death, and supported our therapists as their families experienced major health issues.
From L to R: Ms. Lisa, Ms. Katy, Ms. Alison, Ms. Carmelia, and Ms. Susan. Ms. Marilyn couldn’t make Nate’s graduation party but she was with us in spirit! I strongly advise you to click on this picture to see it in all of its glory. Look at Nate’s face. He is beaming with love for these women!
With these ladies, Nate has maintained a rigorous schedule of therapy (15 hours a week), which has prepared him for public school, where he now receives 31.5 hours of therapy per week. They taught me and Chad how to raise our child with super special needs and how to help Nate be the best kid possible, which is truly all a parent wants.
For Nate’s first birthday, his Auntie Anne and Uncle Kent gave him a copy of Oh The Places You’ll Go! by Dr. Seuss. At the end of Nate’s graduation party, we asked all of his therapists to write a little note in there for Nate. We plan to ask all of his future teachers to do the same and will give it to Nate when he graduates from high school so he can see just how many people have contributed to his education and his life. We are so very grateful that we were given these ladies to establish the foundation of Nate’s lifelong learning and to become the brilliant boy that he is today.