Our son, Steven, who is now ten, was four years old when he was finally diagnosed with PDD-NOS. Our pediatrician had suspected something was wrong when Steven was two because he had a limited vocabulary and could not string two words together. We placed him in our local school for children with disabilities and he began speech therapy, occupational therapy (to address sensory issues), and what amounted to applied behavioral analysis in a class setting. When someone was finally brave enough to tell us that autism was suspected (and had been since he was 2, but no one felt the need to tell us!), we went searching for whatever else we could do to help him.
We engaged in the following therapies for our son: occupational therapy at Easter Seals, the “best” speech pathologist in our area, Dr. Greenspan’s floortime model, Interactive Metronome, the GF/CF diet, and vitamin supplements. While Steven made slow progress, he was still very much autistic. We heard about Horizons through a friend who also has a son on the spectrum. When she told us about the progress her son was making at Horizons we decided to check into it.
The first thing that spoke to us was that no one at Horizons claimed that their program was a cure for autism, they spoke about remediating autism. We were also told about the research upon which the programs are based, and it is based upon neurotypical childhood development. It made so much sense that we couldn’t believe that no one else was doing this! We also looked into the statistics of ASD people living a truly independent life and those statistics are dismal. We do not want our son in a group home when we pass away. We want him independent and LIVING life.
We began working with Horizons two years ago and Steven’s progress is nothing short of amazing. Our family life is less stressful and we enjoy the beautiful person who is our son. We no longer live in fear of the next meltdown, as they rarely occur now. He has learned to cope with change in his environment. He engages us in play, he makes eye contact, he understands non-verbal communication, and he is learning to regulate his actions with those of others. Additionally, his speech has improved dramatically as the program taught us to use declarative communication with him rather than imperatives and questions which basically demand his response rather than encouraging information sharing. The greatest thing (and most nerve racking), though, is that he is now teasing the life out of his little sister and he is no longer the completely compliant child!!! It may sound strange to be excited by your children fighting, but he is now engaging her as a typical brother would.
Steven has come so far with Horizons. His teachers and all of the people at school have been so impressed by his progress that they have been willing to send their staff to Horizons workshops. If you know about Michigan’s economy, the schools won’t spend an extra penny that they don’t feel necessary.
The CORE Approach at Horizons is effective and doesn’t require hours of extra work. It becomes a way of living; it is worked into those activities that occur every day in every home. We tell anyone that we meet with an ASD family member about the CORE Approach and Horizons. We now have true hope for our son and his ability to have a high quality of life as an adult. For the present, we continue working toward each new objective that continually helps our son’s brain make the connections that it didn’t naturally, so he is just like the other kids. What autism took away Horizons is helping us giving back!
Gilda Radner once said, “Life is about not knowing, having to change, taking the moment and making the best of it, without knowing what’s going to happen next.” Through the CORE Approach at Horizons we are helping our child achieve that sense of life.
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