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Family of the Month: “Isiah’s Story”

Isiah Sanchez is a 4-year-old little boy who was diagnosed on the autism spectrum before his 2nd birthday. Isiah’s family is composed of Robert (dad), Samantha (mom) and sister Aubrey. Samantha shared Isiah’s story. “I noticed Isiah was slower at reaching milestones than his sister. I discussed this with his pediatrician as he was not interacting or smiling. His doctor recommended that Isiah should be tested for autism and referred him to Vanderbilt. When I took him for his appointment, the specialist diagnosed Isiah on the autism spectrum.”

After Isiah’s diagnosis, he began speech therapy and occupational therapy. Samantha said, “He did alright with speech and occupational therapy, but he was not really ready for that. He had a hard time expressing himself because he did not talk. He had a lot of meltdowns and he would hit and throw things. I did not fully understand why this was happening.” Samantha discovered Autism ETC by driving by the location on Professional Park Drive in Clarksville. She reached out to the center and was able to get Isiah on the waiting list in July, 2021. She learned that Autism ETC was opening a second location on Harnett Court in Clarksville at the beginning of 2022. Isiah began the Day Therapy Program full-time in January, 2022, at the new location.

Samantha continued, “I was not sure what to expect when Isiah started services. I did not do a lot of research because I did not want to expect it to be something it was not. I felt welcomed at Autism ETC and I learned the staff wanted to help Isiah reach his full potential. The staff helped me learn to better understand and help Isiah. There were things he was able to do at the center he was not able to do at home. The staff taught me how they work with Isiah and now we see his progress at home.”

Samantha shared about Isiah’s progress: “Isiah has made amazing progress. He is verbal now. He talks really well. He has also learned how to use his augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) device to help him further his communication skills. He has learned how to play with peers. He has come out of his ‘bubble’ and become social. It is amazing to see him come out of his own world and be able to interact with others.”

Looking to the future, Samantha said, “The skills that Isiah has learned at Autism ETC have paved the way for his future in school. This has given him a foundation to build from. In August, Isiah will transition into a pre-K program since his birthday is 4 days too late to start kindergarten. With Isiah participating in the program at Autism ETC, he is prepared to have a schedule in school which is going to make it an easy transition for him. If Isiah had not come to Autism ETC, going to school would have been very difficult for him.”

The advice Samantha offers to other parents with a child on the spectrum: “Always advocate for your child. No one knows your child like you do. Sometimes you have to fight for your child to get what your child needs, but it will be worth it.”