As we approach this holiday season, we are reminded of how special the individuals and families we serve truly are. I am pleased to share a beautiful story about a little boy named Caden, and his devoted and loving family.
High school sweethearts, Tony and Kelly Picanso were overjoyed by the birth of their first child. They anticipated every milestone, big or small, but right away noticed Caden wasn’t progressing as he should. Kelly explained, “We were in and out of the hospital with Caden. He was constantly sick. We couldn’t get him to latch or bottle feed, so he wasn’t gaining weight. He was having fevers every few days. He really just wasn’t thriving or hitting milestones. He crawled very late and said one word briefly and was having sensory issues. We just wanted answers!”
He continued to struggle with feeding and sensory awareness, and was lacking in speech. He wasn’t making eye contact and didn’t understand how to play. Tony shared, “One of the biggest things we noticed was his play. If he had 5 cars, he would line them up and put his face real close and just sit there. Most kids want interaction, but Caden didn’t know how to play like others. He wanted to be by himself.”
By Caden’s second birthday, he was diagnosed with Autism and Global Developmental Delay. Kelly shared, “That was the hardest day of my life. Not because we were disappointed, but because he had already been through so much. No parent wants to have their child be faced with these types of challenges. We thought, will he ever be able to go to school? Will he ever be able to speak in complete sentences? Or be able to eat? Or be potty trained? You just want the best for your child.”
Tony and Kelly began to do research on getting Caden the help he needed. Caden's doctors recommended getting him into therapy right away. Evaluations revealed that he would need Speech, Occupational and Feeding therapy. His autism diagnoses could best be treated in an Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) program. To get Caden the care he needed, Tony and Kelly were left with a difficult decision. Tony, a military pilot, would have to deploy with the Air National Guard for nine months to insure 15 months of covered services for his son. So, he did.
In August of 2014, Caden began receiving all the services needed at Easterseals Capper Foundation, due to the loving actions and sacrifices his parents were willing to make. When Linda Burgen, Board Certified Behavioral Analyst, began working with Caden, she focused on his communication by labeling pictures of common items to build his vocabulary. She worked on his social skills and joint attention to increase eye contact. She also trained Tony and Kelly on presenting information to help Caden learn, and how to help her collect information to build his skills.
Linda shared, “I think it is important for people to realize that all children are different and that we should always start with where the child is and build on their strengths. We are not there to emphasize the differences, but to teach them the missing components and work to bring out their best. Many inappropriate behaviors are types of communication challenges. We have to interpret, understand, and teach better, more effective ways to communicate those same ideas."
Since beginning services at ESCF, Tony and Kelly have seen drastic improvements. Caden started with a vocabulary of around twenty-five words. Going out in public was very overwhelming and he would become over-stimulated. He has made great progress with language and cognitive skills and no longer needs Speech and Occupational therapy or Feeding therapy. Linda now sees him in a classroom setting with his peers in Kindergarten.
Caden recalls a lot of information and has learned to organize the information he learns. He is a creative thinker and problem solver. He enjoys computers and tries to negotiate and convince others
of his plans and ideas. Kelly shared, "We realized the diagnoses don't change him, he's still the same. It just changes how we approach things. Some things are harder for him and some things come easily, like academics. He's compassionate and sensitive. He has lots of energy and is tons of fun. Caden's imagination has really taken off. Those are parts of him that have always been there".
Tony and Kelly believe the services Caden has received at ESCF have been vital for him to be successful. They shared, “He wouldn’t be in Kindergarten if it wasn’t for Linda and for all the things that Capper has done to help us. We are so grateful for everyone that helped get him where he needs to be. From his therapists, to Mary and Annie in Intake, to Debbie helping with insurance. They were all there when our coverage ran out and after nine-months of out of pocket expenses, we were faced with Tony having to deploy again. They helped us receive a scholarship from the Scholarship Assistance Fund, so our family didn't have to be apart again and Caden could continue services. We are beyond grateful to everyone at Easterseals Capper Foundation."
Caden has made remarkable improvements since starting services here, and will continue to receive the therapy needed because of your wonderful support of Easterseals Capper Foundation. Our services would not be possible without the generosity we receive from friends like you.
Thank you for being on our Capper team and helping us make profound, positive differences in people’s lives everyday. There are many more individuals who need our services, so please consider a generous contribution to help more individuals like Caden build their abilities and be all they can be. Your support makes such a positive impact and you will feel good about giving! Thank you.
President & CEO