Living with Autism: One Boy’s Story

helo2.jpgFive year old Helo received an Autism Spectrum Diagnosis (ASD) diagnosis at the age of 3. “It was reassuring to know that, going forward, we could get help without having to jump through hoops,” his mom, Megan, says. “But my biggest fear was that he wouldn’t fit in, and that as his mom, I wouldn’t be able to give him what he needed.”

Like many children with autism, Helo excelled at rote, predictable activities such as puzzles. However he also appeared to be good at skills such as climbing, running and jumping – activities that are often more difficult for a child with ASD. “Helo’s body needed constant movement to pull himself together,” his speech-language pathologist, Carmen, explains. “If he was not running, jumping, or pushing his head or feet into something, he was having a very hard time.”

Helo’s progress over the past year astounded his mother as well as his therapists. “Helo is a great example of how at CTC, we meet a child where they are and work from the basics up,” says his occupational therapist, Brittany. “He has progressed so quickly. His mom’s efforts in coming to therapy consistently and practicing what she’s learned at home have made a huge difference.”

Helo’s language and social skills have improved dramatically as well. “Two years ago, Helo was using language only to make requests,” says Carmen. “Now he’s using language for social means, which is huge for kids with ASD. Language is no longer a burden, but an amazing tool. We went from, ‘Help Helo talk,’ to ‘He won’t stop talking!’”

Brittany agrees. “When I first met Helo, he was constantly moving and all he said was ‘digga digga digga,’” she says. “Now, he’ll walk into his session, say hi and tell me about his day. We recently sat at a table for almost the entire session because he wanted to make a card for his dad. We cut, glued, colored, drew a picture of him and his dad playing, and copied letters to write a note.”

Megan has noticed improved performance at school as well. “Before, he’d hold onto his teacher and follow her everywhere. Now, a year later, he checks in with her but can be comfortable on his own. He loves groups and teams, and is able to invite others to play with him.”

Helo still has plenty of difficult days, however. “Sometimes he’ll wake up and everything is wrong,” Megan says. “He likes his clothing tight, and if something is loose and he’s in the wrong mood it makes him very upset. He has to do things in a specific way and in a specific sequence – if that’s off, he’ll get upset. He has meltdowns where he’ll bang his head against the wall or punch his bed.”

Megan has found that a Lycra body sock helps soothe her son. They own two – one to keep on hand at home, and another for school. “The one at home is lime green. It makes it easier for me to find him!” says Megan.

Thanks to his therapists, “I feel more confident knowing I can take care of my son,” Megan says. “Therapy has been a blessing. It’s been more for me than for him! I watch what they do with him, how they speak to him, and how they move him. I take that all home and we practice, practice, practice. Without therapy, I’d be lost. His therapists have taught me how to teach him.”

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