Please meet 5-year-old Ezra Zayas Caraballo, and his mother, Laquesha Snipe, Autism ETC’s January Family of the Month. Laquesha was eager to share Ezra’s story. “Ezra exhibited several delays and was behind in many skills when compared to other children his age. Along with the delays, Ezra did not make eye contact, was sensitive to loud noises, and feared new people and places. He also had difficulty with transitioning. He was unable to put on his shoes or brush his teeth. Ezra’s pediatrician was hesitant to give a formal diagnosis and classified him with ‘slow development’. Since autism ran in Ezra’s father’s family, Ezra was tested and diagnosed with having Autism Spectrum Disorder a little over a year ago.”
To help Ezra, he started speech therapy, occupational therapy and feeding therapy. Laquesha shared, “Ezra was in preschool and kindergarten, but he was making no progress. He was not reaching any of the goals of his IEP (Individual Educational Plan). This was all so new to me and I didn’t know where to turn. Ezra’s therapy providers suggested Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) therapy. I called Autism ETC, and the staff walked me through the steps to enroll him in their center.”
Laquesha continued, “When Ezra started services, he was non-verbal, continued to struggle to make eye contact, and was sensitive to noise and transitioning. He was not making progress and having problems in pre-school and kindergarten I felt all alone. However, at Autism ETC, I felt like I had a support group. I had never experienced this kind of support. As a result, I took him out of school so he could receive full-time services. Ezra is happy to be at Autism ETC. He puts on his backpack and is ready to go in the morning, a complete reversal from how it was in pre-school and kindergarten. Ezra is working with professionals who understand him and can work with him. He now eats all types of food and he makes eye contact. He can sit in a classroom setting for long periods of time. Previously, he could only sit for 5 to 10 minutes. He enjoys schoolwork and is eager to try new things.”
Ezra is also making progress with his language development. Laquesha said, “Ezra now understands cues. He has learned some ASL (American Sign Language), and also says some words. He has made great progress and is able to communicate in full sentences using his PECs book. The staff is preparing him to use a communication device. I now feel like I can communicate with my child! His behaviors have decreased since he is now able to express his wants and needs with me and others.
Laquesha also explained, “I love the parent training meetings. The staff teaches me how I can help Ezra. They have given me a lot of resources. They encourage me to get Ezra involved in other activities. They are helping him become independent. As a parent, I get exhausted, but the staff encourages and follows up with me. All of this indirectly helps Ezra. Laquesha shared her advice for other families who are struggling to help their child. “Be your child’s advocate. Do not be ashamed or blame yourself. It does not make you a failure if you seek help for your child. The earlier you get help for your child, the better.”
Laquesha sees a bright future for Ezra. “Ezra is going to be independent. He is reaching his goals. I am excited about how Autism ETC has helped Ezra and me and I believe the day will come when it won’t be evident that Ezra has autism.”