Tell us your child’s story.
We started early intervention right away. It was during those sessions, that we began to see Autism in our son, for ourselves. We knew we needed to get his formal diagnosis as soon as possible, in order to continue receiving the therapy he so desperately needed. During Sebastian’s first evaluations in St. Louis, they were not confident he had Autism and said it could simply be a delay. That process was confusing and frustrating to say the least. Fortunately, when we moved to Louisville, we were able to get a formal diagnosis on our first evaluation. I thought I was going to have to convince a doctor that my son had Autism. Instead I remember at the end of the meeting asking the doctor, “when did you know he had it?”, and she responded “within 15 minutes of meeting him”. It secretly broke my heart but also confirmed and validated so many of my feelings.
Fast forward a few years, with a non-stop therapy schedule, and the best preschool ever, and Sebastian has been incredibly successful!
Why did you choose APT for therapy services?
My husband’s job was relocating us back to our home town of Louisville, KY from St. Louis, MO. Sebastian was already in early intervention (First Steps) in St. Louis. He was receiving ABA therapy, speech therapy and occupational therapy at the time. I realized that some Louisville providers had long waiting lists, so I started calling and wanted to find a one stop shop that would meet all of my son’s needs. Thankfully APT offered all of these therapies and we were able to get on the waiting list for ABA, and by the time we moved, APT had availability in all the therapies we were requesting. Little did we know how amazing our therapists would be!
What improvements have you seen in your child since they started therapy at APT?
There are an endless list of improvements, but to list some under the corresponding therapies:
Speech– Mrs. Kayla at APT has changed our world as we know it! Sebastian has Apraxia. Apraxia is a motor speech disorder. To speak, messages have to go from your brain to your mouth. These messages tell the muscles how and when to move to make sounds. If you have Apraxia, these messages do not get through correctly. Basically, Sebastian knows what he wants to say, but when he goes to say it, it comes out differently.
Sebastian went from no words or sounds to talking. His receptive language has improved greatly and he understands basically anything we say to him. His expressive language went from nonexistent to telling us his wants and needs and ofcourse his likes and dislikes.
OT– Mrs. Ginette at APT is seriously amazing! If you want someone who is going to treat your child like her own, she is your therapist! She worked with Sebastian on feeding. Sebastian made gains while working with Mrs. Ginette, and we really looked forward to her therapy sessions, however, we realized there was something bigger underlying his picky eating; something that a medical team was going to have to address. Sebastian was diagnosed with RFID (Restrictive Food Intake Disorder) and he has a very severe case; we ended up going to an intensive full time 2 month program in Nebraska to get Sebastian to consume solids again. And it worked! Sebastian is eating wonderfully now! However, Mrs. Ginette led us there; she was so supportive and we just love her!
ABA- I cannot say enough wonderful things about ABA therapy. It is worth it, it is critical to success! Sebastian had lots of problematic behaviors and during ABA therapy I realized that any behavior is an attempt to communicate, whether it be good or bad. Since Sebastian was basically nonverbal at the time, we were getting all sorts of behaviors. Sebastian eventually realized there were certain behaviors that would get him what he wanted and some that would result in a consequence. This applies to so many different situations in his life. His attention span and ability to focus has grown immensely, he can complete various tasks independently, he can follow two step directions, he transitions so much better from activity to activity and he is potty-trained! Woo-hoo!
What has been your brightest moment along the journey?
Watching my son speak for the first time was life-changing. You pray about it and hope for it, but there are plenty of children on the spectrum who never speak, and that was always in the back of my mind. We started with Kayla when Sebastian was 2, and he had no words at all, hardly any sounds, didn’t know his alphabet, etc. And now, two years later….he is talking!
He is not talking in sentences yet, but he is willing and able to request anything he needs or wants. He loves to read books. He will answer us with a yes or no, and will say simple phrases, my favorite being “I love you.” You have to understand, we legitimately had no idea IF or WHEN he would ever talk. We would watch his peers (some that Kayla gave speech therapy to) begin to talk or would hear lots of success stories and we would long to be one of them and NOW WE ARE!
What advice would you give other parents who face similar situations?
Don’t wait, don’t hesitate, don’t worry about a label, just stop at nothing to get your child the help they need and deserve. I see a lot of parents who are in denial about their child’s delays (rightfully so), but unfortunately it only prolongs the inevitable. Children are like sponges at these ages, and the sooner early intervention can begin, the better. Moving forward, some of these therapies are very expensive, and in order for certain insurances to provide coverage, your child has to have a diagnosis. While the diagnosis process is very difficult and can be hard to accept, it is harder to accept that your child could have made even more gains had you started sooner.
If your child is young and you are looking for a preschool that gets “it,” Carriage House Preschool is our second home. We love each and every one of the teachers and staff that work there. There is no greater feeling of dropping off your child and knowing they are in the absolute best hands. They have played an instrumental role in Sebastian’s success.
There are so many support groups for families. FEAT of Louisville is an amazing resource for autism families. They plan all sorts of events for parents and children alike. Autism can be incredibly isolating, and a good support system is key!
Speech Therapist, Kayla Sergesketter and Occupational Therapist, Ginette Allen, see Sebastian at APT. We asked them to share a little about their journey with him.
How long have you been working Sebastian and what improvements have you seen?
I have been working with Sebastian for just about 2 years now, since May 2016. He has come SO FAR with the help of his parents, his teachers at Carriage House, and all the therapists who have worked with him over the past couple years. When we first started working together, Sebastian was primarily nonverbal and used mostly actions, gestures, and behaviors to communicate his wants and needs to others. He clearly KNEW what he wanted but because of his diagnosis of apraxia, he wasn’t able to express his wants/needs clearly to others and this led to a lot of frustration on his part. We started at the most basic level and I had him imitating speech sounds in isolation using the MAPs 2 Learn program. Sebastian LOVES letters, so he did great with this program! Over time, we built up to syllables, then words, then phrases and short sentences. Sebastian still has difficulty producing speech sounds correctly in spontaneous utterances but his progress has been AMAZING, especially over the past 3 months. Just last week, he read “Brown Bear, Brown Bear” with me and I was so proud of how well he did! His spontaneous speech used to consist mainly of /d/ sounds (“dah-dah” for bye-bye) for almost every consonant! But now he is able to clearly and correctly produce most age-appropriate speech sounds in words, he just needs cues for consistent success. My favorite thing about Sebastian’s journey has been seeing his attitude toward therapy change over time, once he realized that the “work” we are doing is helping him be more successful in his daily interactions! He KNOWS that his speech is improving and he just lights up with a huge smile when he does well in speech sessions!
I worked with Sebastian for about 6 months in 2016 to address feeding concerns. He had a very limited diet and restrictive feeding patterns that were preventing him from trying new foods. Though he made small gains with tolerating touching and playing with non-preferred foods during the time I worked with him, he ultimately benefitted from transitioning to an out of state intensive feeding program where, I’m happy to say, he was able to make significant progress in a relatively short period of time. The last time I spoke with his mom, she said he was doing great!
Describe a little about your relationship with Sebastian.
As I reflect on this question, I can’t help but laugh a little bit. I’m pretty sure Sebastian used to dread coming to see me. At least it seemed that way sometimes. Sebastian is a very strong willed child and he likes things a certain way. So when he started coming to see me and realized that I wasn’t just going to let him do things his way all the time, I think it threw him for a loop. But consistency is key. And once he realized what the expectations were when he came to speech, we started making more progress and I think he started to enjoy his time with me more and more. We still have days where we butt heads at times, but I know he still loves me through those moments and he knows that I still love him, too. Since we’ve had 2 years to build and strengthen our relationship, it’s now easier for me to push his limits a little more during our sessions because he really does know that I’m here to help him! I love working with Sebastian and I’m so proud of how far he has come. He has really risen up to show me what he is capable of and I love seeing his weekly progress! He is an amazing little boy and I’m so lucky to have the opportunity to work with him and his family!
Sebastian did not “enjoy” coming to see me! He knew that going to see Miss Gin meant working on one of the most challenging areas of his daily routine: eating. Nevertheless, through use of play, singing, and games, he would come around 🙂 We enjoyed a playful relationship and I developed a pretty good read on when he was trying to play me! I also enjoyed a great relationship with his mom, who was, and is, his biggest advocate!