Vicki Discovers New Joy, Friends and her Voice After Autism Diagnosis
August 31, 2021
August 31, 2021
As long as her mom can remember, Vicki has always been in a hurry. It started at birth, entering the world early, perfectly healthy, though weighing only 3 pounds. Then she skipped crawling and walked at 9 months of age. Since then, she’s grown up around the race track, with a desire to race dragsters alongside her great-uncle someday. Even now, just days away from 5 years old, this active young girl is always on the go.
When it comes to her child, Vicki’s mom wasn’t used to waiting. This is why – after two and a half years on a waitlist to get her child in for autism testing – Leslie was frustrated.
Thankfully, the process of getting an autism diagnosis – and Vicki’s need for speed – was able to get back on track when Leslie discovered Hopebridge Autism Therapy Centers earlier this year.
Leslie first noticed some of Vicki’s challenges when she was a toddler. It started after she took a tough fall at 1 year old, and Leslie became concerned about her daughter’s hearing. The doctor initially brushed it off as normal for her age, but Leslie advocated for her child and took her to a specialist who put tubes in her ears. This helped with her hearing, but at that point, Vicki’s speech was delayed after not being able to hear for much of her young life. Even after surgery and time in speech therapy, Leslie felt Vicki’s communication still did not progress, so she sought more help.
At this point, Leslie reached out to the local hospital for a diagnostic evaluation for autism spectrum disorder (ASD). She filled out the required paperwork, turned it in and was told to expect an assessment in six months. She waited. And waited. And waited.
“Waiting and waiting for something to happen was so tough. I put her in preschool and a few things helped – she started to say a word or two – but I knew there was something my kid wasn’t getting,” said Leslie.
After more than two years on the waitlist for an assessment, she came across a story from Hopebridge Autism Therapy Centers on Facebook that caught her attention.
“Something about it just clicked. I got the best feeling while reading the article from Hopebridge. Then I saw they opened centers in Colorado and I knew I had to call them right away. Within one week, she was diagnosed with autism,” said Leslie.
When Vicki began therapy at Hopebridge, she was an animated and snuggly little girl with big feelings. Now, less than four months later, she’s that same big-hearted kiddo who loves to make faces at herself in the mirror, watch Disney movies, go swimming, and sing the alphabet along with YouTube videos … but now she is better equipped to express herself and vocalize that she wants to do these things.
Effective communication was – and continues to be – the main goal for Vicki while in therapy. Leslie told us that her daughter spoke when she was younger, but later regressed and didn’t really verbalize words other than while counting or reciting her ABCs.
Unfortunately, these communication challenges led to big tantrums that sometimes included self-injury or aggressive behaviors, such as biting and banging her head.
“We couldn’t communicate to find out what was wrong. It was so frustrating for both of us and it was neither one of us was at fault,” said Leslie. “It was scary to watch my kid try to hurt herself. I didn’t know what she wanted and she couldn’t tell me.”
Since joining Hopebridge, Vicki has experienced huge gains in communication. She is now using language verbally, as well as communicating with help from the PEC system.
“Now I can understand the songs she sings. I hear her ‘speaking’ for her dolls while playing make-believe. She tells me she wants milk. She tells me what’s wrong and if something upsets her,” said Leslie. “I remember the first time she told me what she wanted. She said ‘please,’ then brought me over to what she wanted and said, ‘help me.’ That day she got two ice cream cones because the way she said it was just so cute!”
Leslie told us now that Vicki realizes this is how she can get the things she wants, she is more apt to speak or use PECS. And because she is able to express herself, tantrums have also decreased. There are still times when she gets frustrated if her mom doesn’t understand something she says, but ABA therapy and parent training gives both mom and daughter extra support in these cases. For instance, Leslie is able to suggest some calming techniques, like counting backwards, if the frustration becomes too much for Vicki.
Much to everyone’s surprise, Vicki now not only speaks—she speaks in two languages! They first noticed when her therapist, Hopebridge Registered Behavior Technician (RBT) Griselda, wore pineapple earrings, and Vicki said, “piña.” Beyond spotting this fruit, she has picked up a number of other Spanish words while watching shows in Spanish on YouTube. Griselda has since begun singing to her in Spanish, too. French videos have also piqued her interest, so that language might be next in her multilingual repertoire!
Before beginning ABA therapy at Hopebridge, Leslie was worried about sending her child to kindergarten. Now, in addition to communication goals, Vicki is working on school preparation.
“I knew she wasn’t ready for kindergarten. She’s so smart and going to go far in life, but to go to an actual school would be a challenge for her right now, so we’re working on the areas in which she could use help,” said Leslie. “At Hopebridge, she’s learning so much and it’s all through play.”
Vicki is currently practicing sitting still for longer periods of time. She’s working on building her patience, easing through transitions and other skills that could be used in the classroom one day.
School readiness isn’t all that is important, though. ABA therapy at Hopebridge has given Vicki the tools to help her enjoy her favorite things even more than she already does.
“Vicki attends Hopebridge full time. I was nervous and did not think she’d do well from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. each day, but she doesn’t seem to have an issue with it. I don’t know if it’s the other kids, or that everyone there understands what she is going through,” said Leslie. “And Griselda must be a big part of it, too! Vicki responds so well to her and truly loves her. They have so much fun together.”
Vicki’s diagnosis is still fairly new, so Leslie is still wrapping her head around autism as she navigates this journey with her daughter.
“I’m still not sure what autism means to me. There are so many different spectrums,” said Leslie. “My kid has some struggles, but she’s the smartest little girl who has special talents others don’t have. She’s amazing. Once she is able to communicate better, I know she’ll amaze us even more.”
What Leslie does know, however, is that seeking a diagnosis and therapy was the best choice for her daughter.
“It’s hard to watch your child struggle and not know where to go to get her help. I couldn’t be more grateful that we found Hopebridge,” said Leslie. “It’s been the best thing in the world for Vicki and she loves it. Not only is she learning, but she comes home happy every day.”
Vicki’s family is not alone in this desire to get their kids in the door sooner. Access to diagnostics and therapy services can be slim or slow-moving in some areas around the country.
“The number one driver for us to open new locations is access for families,” said Hopebridge CEO Dennis May. “There is such a shortage of available services and as we look into the future, this problem doesn’t just get better overnight. It’s going to take effort from providers like Hopebridge to really lean into expansion for kids like Vicki.”
Are you waiting for answers for your own child? Perhaps you’re unsure whether the challenges your child is struggling with are signs of autism, or if you’re in Leslie’s shoes, maybe you’re on a waitlist for a diagnostic assessment or ABA evaluation. We want to speed up the process for your child to get them on a faster track to a more independent and joyful life. Fill out the quick and easy form on our website to get started sooner than later.
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