Renewed Dreams Grow in the Garden

For some parents, learning that their child has Autism comes with a sense of sadness and worry as their fears are finally confirmed. Others experience relief, thankful that they have an explanation after years of doubt and questioning regarding their child’s differences and difficulties. For many others, receiving a diagnosis of Autism comes as a complete and total shock.

Chase’s parents experienced a mixture of all three reactions. As Chase grew, his family noticed that he seemed to play differently than his older brother and sister. He preferred to play alone. Initially, they simply chalked this up to Chase being independent. He liked trains and would place them in a straight line, but they gave it very little thought because that’s just what you do with trains. However, as time went on, they noticed he would do the same thing with refrigerator magnets, blocks and cars.

Something just seemed to be different about Chase, especially when compared to other children his own age. He tended to become overly focused on certain objects, rarely made eye contact and failed to engage in typical toddler babbling. His parents became more concerned as time went on. Chase seemed to get angry or had emotional outbursts, especially when he was placed in new or overly stimulating environments.

When Chase was two years old, a family member with an autistic child suggested that they should have him tested. Chase’s parents took him to two different doctors who both diagnosed him with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Concern… relief… shock. Having Autism wasn’t part of the dream when they started a family. At times, they felt overwhelmed, attempting to process all of the information being thrown at them all while trying to make the right decisions for their son.

Unfortunately, this is the reality for many families today. According to the CDC, about 1 percent of the world population has Autism Spectrum Disorder. More than 3.5 million Americans live with ASD. The prevalence of Autism in the United States has increased dramatically since the year 2000, rising from 1 in 150 children to 1 in 59 children.

Ultimately, Chase’s path led his family to Sara’s Garden and New Horizons Academy for Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy and Autism Intervention services. They had heard of how these life-changing services had benefited other children with Autism and wanted to do whatever they could for their son.

Following his first found of 40 HBOT treatments, Chase’s parents noticed that he was becoming more aware of his surroundings. He began babbling for the first time in his life. He started making eye contact and began expressing an interest in spending time with other people. His parents were so thrilled with his progress that they had him complete a second round of treatments where he continued to build on the successes and growth he had received during his first round.

The teachers and paraprofessionals who worked with Chase at New Horizons Academy noticed drastic changes begin to take place as they provided Autism Intervention services. He became so much less frustrated as his words began emerging and he was able to express himself and be understood by others. His social interaction also grew dramatically as he began to play and interact with his peers. Chase was making great gains and meeting milestones that his parents had previously feared might never be achieved.

Before coming to Sara’s Garden, Chase’s parents had many questions about their son’s future. Thanks to Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy and Autism Intervention services at Sara’s Garden, Chase’s family has been given a newfound hope and state that they are “grateful beyond words for what they’ve done, and continue to do, for our Chase”. They can now see their son’s emerging potential and have renewed dreams for his future.

Hope for a child to emerge into the responsible adults we as parents pray for. There is hope for those who were told they would not learn, or walk, or talk. That hope, is rekindled through the work that is happening at Sara’s Garden and New Horizons Academy. The loving, caring and true compassion that is shown to each and every client, no matter how difficult their condition, disability, or behavior might be, is where the success story starts. Come join us and you’ll see what is possible for a child who has been labeled as “different”.

No matter what you have been told, there is hope… and Sara’s Garden can help you find it.

Turtle Comes Out of His Shell

Education and friendship can play a huge role in the life of any child, but they may be even more vital for a child with Autism.

Autistic children differ in the way they perceive things and respond to the world around them. They often have great difficulty making sense of the world as other children see it. Too often, children with Autism are not the preferred partners of typical children. In the worst of cases, they may be bullied because they look, act or sound different than their typical peers. Children with Autism require caring, individualized attention from teachers and intervention specialists. They may also need extra help interpreting friendships, non-verbal communication, using school equipment, paying attention in class or controlling their behaviors.

For Glen (Turtle as his mother affectionately calls him), the first two weeks of school at New Horizons Academy at Sara’s Garden were extremely rough. It represented yet another change in his life. He had struggled in his previous school placements, often acting out and exhibiting behaviors that made it nearly impossible for teachers to control and teach him or peers to get to know and befriend him.

For weeks, Glen’s mother would literally pry him from the car each morning and carry him into the school. Glen would be hitting, screaming, kicking and biting her the entire way into the building. Each morning, the NHA staff would immediately take Glen into the multi-sensory room when he arrived and spend time with him, helping to calm him down and get him ready for the school day ahead. Many times, he would need to be restrained so he would not hurt himself. His sole focus was on his mother. He desperately wanted to stay with her, fearing that she was leaving him at school forever. However, after spending time in the multi-sensory room Glen would calm down and eventually go to his classroom with his peers.

When Glen started school at NHA, we were told that he had Selective Mutism (SM), an anxiety disorder in which a person who is normally capable of speech does not speak in specific situations or to specific people. We learned that Glen had been teased because of his speech impediment at previous schools and had therefore stopped speaking in public. He lacked self-confidence and was terrified to try new things. Glen had no friends. In fact, according to Glen’s mom, he had never had friends before in his life because other children were afraid of him due to his negative behaviors.

While each morning was difficult for Glen those first weeks, the staff began to notice significant changes.

Every morning, Glen’s outbursts became less severe and shorter in duration. Then, during the third week of school an amazing event took place. Glen came rushing into school, not waiting for his mother to bring him! He appeared to be very excited. Our school administrator, Mr. Burkholder, asked his mother what brought about the change. She stated that she had taken him to Wal-Mart to purchase a special toy… not for himself, but for the new friend that he had made at New Horizons Academy. He could not wait to come to school to give his new friend this toy. This began a new pattern. Glen loves coming to school each day and no longer has negative behaviors.

What has developed from this one friendship is a young boy who quickly began developing self-confidence and trust. He began to excel in his academics and the teachers watched him blossom into a special leader. He continually wants more academic challenges. The teachers realized that despite what was written in all of the reports they had received on Glen, he had so much ability and potential. It was not long into the first grading period that Glen had already mastered the goals that had been written on his IEP.

Now, six months later, he has become his classroom’s “Chatty Cathy”. He loves interacting with his classmates and completing his classwork. Learning how to do simple addition has just clicked in Glen’s brain. It was like watching a light bulb come on. He picked up the concept and is exceeding his yearly goal. Now he wants to do his math work first. Reading continues to be difficult for Glen due to his speech impediment, but that doesn’t stop him from trying. He reads with his classmates at his ability level and is always willing to attempt reading new words, which includes weekly spelling words. He has also shown significant improvement when writing letters with the proper formation and always turns in his homework. Once Glen is assigned a task or classroom chore he doesn’t stop. He is the one student that can be given a task and you know it will get done with no supervision. He takes on the responsibility of teaching his classmates how to complete a task or chore with pride.

Glen is now able to receive individualized and differentiated educational instruction. Combined with NHA’s diversity of intervention tools such as Conductive Education, Autism Intervention and Sensory Integration, delivered by a specialized staff that is able to give Glen the necessary focused attention, he continues to excel. He now has many friends. He loves to come to school and you can see him walking around NHA with a smile on his face. When you look at Glen now, as compared to September 2013, you will find a boy full of self-confidence, pride, and happiness.

New Horizons Academy provided Glen with a safe, nurturing environment where he could feel accepted and loved. Once the behaviors were overcome, the teachers no longer have to address bad behaviors, and can focus on his education. Thanks to New Horizons Academy at Sara’s Garden, Turtle has come out of his shell. Glen’s mom gets to see her son’s emerging potential and has renewed dreams for his future.

No matter what you have been told, there is hope. Hope for a child to emerge into the responsible adults we as parents pray for. There is hope for those who were told they would not learn, or walk, or talk. That hope, is rekindled through the work that is happening at New Horizons Academy. The loving, caring and true compassion that is shown to each and every student, no matter how difficult their condition, disability, or behavior might be, is where the success story starts. Come join us and you’ll see what is possible for a child who has been labeled as “different”. New Horizons Academy at Sara’s Garden… Where kids come first!

An Angel Spreads His Wings

Solange has always referred to her son Jose as her angel. He was born a healthy, happy baby. However, when Jose was just 18 months old he contracted a virus that led to a multi-organ system failure. He was first diagnosed with Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome and required dialysis, blood products and respiratory assistance.

As time went on Jose began to improve physically but his cognitive abilities seemed uncertain and he still required intensive care. Further complications ensued when Jose began convulsing during a meal. He aspirated milk into his lungs causing him to suffer a stroke. From this moment on, Jose did not develop as he should either physically or cognitively. Jose’s official diagnosis was Cerebral Palsy but he exhibited strong Autistic tendencies and traits.

By the time Jose was eight years old, he was still unable to stand or take steps independently. He crawled everywhere he needed to go. His mother had to walk behind him, holding him around the chest in order to provide the balance and support he needed to take steps. She also had to feed him at every meal as he was unable to grasp utensils or his glass by himself. He had very minimal verbalizations and was not able to follow even simple requests. He displayed almost no emotion and would not notice or acknowledge anyone entering or leaving the room.

Jose’s family was told that he would never walk independently. They were told he would not have the strength or coordination to pedal a bicycle and he would never be able to communicate beyond a few unintelligible syllables. He would spend the rest of his life in a wheelchair and need constant care and supervision.

Thanks to a loving and supportive community, Jose’s family was able to travel to Sara’s Garden from New York City in June 2012 so he could receive Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy and Autism Intervention services. By the end of his initial month of treatments Jose was starting to do things on his own. He started to initiate standing and began taking steps with minimal assistance. At meals he began holding his own drink and started using the utensils to feed himself.

His family was so thrilled at the progress Jose made that first month that they made plans to return again a month later in August. Throughout his second month of treatments Jose continued to make physical and cognitive advancements. He improved with following requests and began expressing personal choices when he needed something. He started showing more emotion and began recognizing when others would come around him. For the first time in his entire life he pedaled a tricycle all by himself and began taking his first independent steps!

Solange has said that she feels like she is living a miracle after being told for years all of the things that Jose would never be able to do. Upon returning home to New York, Jose’s mom took him back to his school to show them his progress. They were amazed at what they saw and commented that they had never before seen a child improve as fast as Jose had. Instead of being confined to a wheelchair the entire day, Jose is now in a more advanced classroom with higher functioning peers. Teachers and friends alike are now trying to keep up with Jose and his newfound freedom!

Jose continues to make gains. He is showing much more interest in the world around him. He is now able to focus on activities at home and school. Instead of eating every meal at Jose’s side, Solange is able to sit across from him and enjoy their meal together. For the first time they are able to have family movie nights as Jose is now able to watch the movie and focus on what is taking place. It brings them so much joy to hear him laugh when he sees or hears something funny. He is no longer a little boy who is constantly told all of the things he will never do.

Before coming to Sara’s Garden Jose depended on his mother for everything. That is no longer the case. Every day he becomes less and less dependent on her and for some that could be a scary thought. Thanks to Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy and Autism Intervention services at Sara’s Garden, Jose is learning what it is like to be an independent young man. Solange wouldn’t have it any other way.

No matter what you’ve been told, there is hope… and Sara’s Garden can help you find it.