Fortunately for me, he was an extremely affectionate and socially motivated child, but due to his limited interests (trains, automatic doors, and marble runs) and language skills, all he could do was watch other kids play. He couldn't join them, though he wanted to.
By some miracle, my husband's employer provided amazing insurance that paid for tuition at a fantastic autism school, Astra Day School, in Kansas City, which we never could have afforded. That school radically changed Henry's life, ridding him of his echolalia, developing his language abilities and helping him master his fixations and engage socially with peers. After two years at this school, Henry was, miraculously, ready to mainstream into a typical first grade classroom, which happened this fall in our new city, Chicago.
I couldn't be more proud of my little boy! He is in the classroom with minimal supports and he's forming relationships with his peers (still no close friendships as he lags behind his peers in his language abilities). He is loving it and doing his absolute best everyday. However, even trying his best, he is still struggling to keep pace with his peers. Because of his language deficits, reading comprehension is extremely challenging for him and he is falling behind. He is also quickly being outpaced in math, and worst of all, I can see him losing confidence. Being in a classroom with twenty-five kids to one instructor has been good for him in many ways, but it also means that as he falls behind, the teacher has no resources to help him individually. I am working hard to help him with flashcards, workbooks and nightly reading time, but he needs more than I am equipped to give him. Language skills are essential to all areas of academic performance, and without help, I can see that Henry will be handicapped by his language struggles in all areas of school. Language is also the glue of friendship. My greatest wish is to see Henry, someday, have a best friend. I fear that that will never happen if he can't communicate naturally.
Out of their continued care for Henry, his old school, Astra, found an ABA (Applied behavior analysis, the therapy that is proven most succesful with kids on the spectrum) based center in our new city, that helps kids with intellectual and academic challenges to catch up and get ahead. It's called Fit Learning, and the data has shown that the program is able to bring children forward two grade levels in math and/or language in fifty hours of therapy/instruction. Because it is considered an academic program, rather than medical, our insurance is not going to foot the bill this time, so I am here trying to raise money to pay for it. I don't want Henry to have come this far as to be able to mainstream, but then slip through the cracks anyway, and it's crucial that we act now. There is a very finite window in a child's cognitive development, where nueroplasticity, the brain's ability to rearrange circuitry positively in response to therapy, is possible. If we get him help now, he will, for the rest of his life, be capable of more cognitively. Right now we can actually increase his IQ, and the way his brain processes language! But if we wait, the window will close, and once it has, all the therapy in the world won't help. This year will be absolutely decisive in determining what kind of life Henry can have in the future, one where he is given an undemanding job that a disabled person can do, or one where he has a meaningful career that contributes something to the world. One where he is a life-long dependent on his mom and dad, with all the loneliness that entails, or one where he is able to have his own family and close meaningful relationships.
We are trying to raise $10,000 for fifty hours of therapy in language comprehension and fifty hours of therapy in math skills. If we raise $5,000 we will embark on therapy for language. If we make it to $10,00 we will gratefully do both. Thank you for any amount you can contribute to this fund, and know that you have altered the course of a child's life forever.
- Courtney Fisher
- Traci Burke
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