When the Wagner family came to Easterseals Olympic Peninsula Autism Center, they knew they needed help. Their son, Bentley, had been diagnosed with Autism. For years they had tried several therapy options, but hadn't made much progress. Everything changed when they came to Easterseals.
Bentley's story is pretty typical in terms of children within the autism community. He was a typically developing infant hitting all milestones, and then when he turned one everything changed. Bentley was given a set of hot wheels for one of his birthday presents and started to do something very unusual with them. Bentley would meticulously line the cars up and down in a row in a very OCD-like fashion. This was the first of many red flags to appear over the next 6 months as Bentley gradually lost the few words he had and regressed almost completely. At 18 months old the early interventionists were confident that he had autism. But, like many parents I know, I refused to take that as an acceptable answer and I ruled out every other thing I could imagine.
For a long time we thought Bentley was deaf because he would not respond to his name or anything else, but that was quickly ruled out. He was just always in his own world and didn't want to be bothered. Bentley has always been on the more severe side of the spectrum and he was diagnosed when he was 3 along with a global developmental delay and sensory integration disorder. He was completely nonverbal and had a hard time functioning in every aspect of his life. Needless to say his quality of life was not great as everyday was a struggle for him to get his needs met. Even with all of the therapies and early intervention he had since 18 months old his progress was painfully slow and not very significant. We were at a total loss.
ABA clinics have only recently begun popping up over the state and the only clinic in our hometown did not take his insurance. So, for many years we tried all the speech therapy and occupational therapy we could get him into as well as doing as much home therapy as possible. This all changed when we came to Easterseals.
Easterseals got Bentley right in for an evaluation and within three months he was at his first appointment! Bentley was 6 years old when he started Easterseals about 6 months ago, and had acquired some language already, but he was not using it functionally. And it was one-worded, no verbs, and mostly "no". He was also still trying to overcome many obstacles to have functional behavior that would allow him to have not only a better quality of life, but also communicate his needs and wants to others.
When we first came to Easterseals we were welcomed with open arms, something that in our experience we were not used to. They evaluated Bentley and set some really ambitious goals. I remember asking them if kids actually were able to meet these goals, because if Bentley was able to be one of those children; I would sell them my soul! Never in a million years did I think that he was going to make the progress that he has! Thankfully for me they declined on my soul-selling offer!
Today, Bentley is a happy and thriving 7 year old boy who has made a complete 180 degree turn around in his abilities. His communication and vocabulary has grown exponentially and he has drastically improved his functional behaviors to the point where when we are out in the community, he can actually enjoy an outing without being so overwhelmed by just trying to process the environment.
Easterseals has been a true blessing in our life and I look forward to continue seeing Bentley's progress. Without Easterseals Bentley would be nowhere near where he is today and for that we are forever grateful. Allison, Jennifer and the rest of the team truly "get it" and this is the one place we can go and not feel judged. They have the amazing ability to see these kids for who they are and not their label! They are the only other people in our life that know what it's like to raise a child with autism, because all the things that I do for him and go through for him they do as well.
It takes a truly special kind of person to work with special needs kids, especially kids on the spectrum, and every single staff member on the team is amazing. Thank you Easterseals Olympic Peninsula Autism Center!
Easterseals Olympic Peninsula Autism Center provides Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) therapy for children with autism throughout the Olympic Peninsula. For more information or to inquire about enrollment, click here.