While a growing number of children in the U.S. are affected by autism spectrum disorders (ASD), the condition is so varied from child to child that each family must face the challenge of learning which treatment is best for their own child, beginning that treatment as early as possible and marshaling the resources necessary for their own support.
ASD is defined by a set of behaviors including challenges interacting with others, difficulty with communication, repetitive behaviors and sometimes challenges with sensory integration. Celeste Lowe grew concerned when she saw these behaviors in her young son, Noah. At almost one year old, Noah would not interact with people. "I felt like I was doing something wrong," she says. "Noah didn’t point, he had no comprehension, and he wasn’t starting to talk at all — just screaming, really high-pitched screaming."
Noah's mother's concerns led her to Seattle Children’s hospital, where Noah was given a provisional diagnosis of ASD and referred to Boyer Children’s Clinic. At Boyer, support for a child with ASD is infused into all the services we provide, whether the setting is a special education preschool classroom at Boyer, a childcare center in the community or a child’s own home.
Organized into multidisciplinary teams, Boyer staff works with the parents to establish outcomes based on each individual child’s challenges, and provides services in settings designed to meet these goals. The team — consisting of a teacher, a speech-language pathologist and an occupational therapist — continues to meet weekly so their strategies grow and change along with the child’s successes. The team also helps parents understand their child’s unique needs and help them apply techniques learned in the group to their home routines and in the classroom.
When Noah began receiving services at Boyer, "at first there was just a lot more screaming," Celeste remembers. She began to believe all the hard work was paying off when, after a few months of therapy, Noah made the sign for "more". She says, "It was the very first time he had communicated in a way other than screaming or biting or running around."
Following that breakthrough, Noah’s sign language vocabulary grew. Now, after a year at Boyer, Celeste says Noah is becoming more social, making eye contact and talking with other people.
"The transformation is so amazing," his mother marvels. "Before, I loved him, but I was like a custodian to him. Now it’s like I’m falling in love with my child. He’s even started calling me 'Mama!' We finally have a relationship, and it’s all thanks to the early intervention at Boyer."
Boyer’s services for children with ASD have grown through the years. Initially founded in 1942 to help children with cerebral palsy, Boyer expanded to provide expert services to children with an ever-increasing variety of developmental delays and disabilities. As we have seen with early intervention services in general, delivering focused support during the critical birth to 3 years helps children with ASD leave Boyer better prepared for preschool and kindergarten, better equipped to face their challenges, and more likely to succeed in school and for the rest of their lives.
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