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Family of the Month: “Jonathan’s Story”

Like many of the clients Autism ETC serves, Rachel Bull, Jonathan’s mom became aware that Jonathan was not meeting milestones in his language development when he had his 1-year well child visit. Rachel began, “I was not too concerned about this at first as Jonathan’s oldest brother, Benjamin had been a late talker. When Jonathan had his 18-month well child visit, his pediatrician recommended that services were needed to help Jonathan since he was not making any attempts to communicate verbally. His behaviors were typical unless he needed self-care such as trimming his nails, which would lead to melt downs. Jonathan was enrolled in Tennessee’s early intervention program so that he could begin services and he was diagnosed with autism close to his 3rd birthday. Although he made some progress, his ability to communicate verbally was his biggest obstacle. Jonathan would try to communicate what he wanted by pointing or pushing our hand toward what he wanted. If we were unable to understand what he was trying to tell us or the item was outside of his reach, he would get upset. As a toddler, Jonathan did not want any affection. He did not want to be held and he would push you away.”

Rachel continued, “After Jonathan aged out of the early intervention program he was in a pre-k program. During this time, I knew he needed more services and I started the process of locating a company that would accept our insurance. After a year-long struggle with insurance, we were approved to seek out ABA Therapy and I reached out to Autism ETC. We were fortunate that they were able to provide in-home services two hours a day, Monday through Thursday, which met our busy schedule. Though Jonathan made some progress, his language development was still extremely limited. At the beginning of 2020, Jonathan’s school assisted us with getting an Augmentative Communication Device to help him communicate. Shortly after that, schools closed due to Covid. I was concerned about the effect this would have on Jonathan and his progress. His therapist talked to us about the option of increasing his services to full-time which we did once a full-time opening became available with Autism ETC and we were able to get coverage for this with our insurance.”

Rachel went on to say, “Once Jonathan began coming full time to the center, he really made progress. The staff at Autism ETC was able to help Jonathan learn how to use his communication device and have focused on him developing his verbal communication skills. Jordan Gibbs-Francis, Jonathan’s BCBA and his RBTs have put in the work to see Jonathan make progress. With life skills as a priority, the staff has worked with Jonathan on what he needs to be able to care for himself and express his wants and needs. This has set Jonathan up for success. Jonathan does well at math and writing, as he is also working on his academic skills. Recently I observed Jonathan at Autism ETC doing things that I did not know he was able to do, so we are stepping up our game at home.”

Rachel went on to discuss how Jonathan’s diagnosis has impacted their family. “It is overwhelming when you get the diagnosis. Until you have a child with special needs, you don’t comprehend just how special they are. Everyone in our family has a different relationship with Jonathan. His dad, Ryan and I are amazed at how his older brothers Benjamin and Jacob interact with Jonathan as well as his younger brother, Isaac. They have taken Jonathan under their wings. He is a special child and it makes me happy to see him happy.

When asked about her advice for other families, Rachel responded: “As the mom of a child with special needs, I would advise families with a child on the spectrum to get services as soon as you can. You have to advocate for your child. We have been fortunate to find great therapists. You have to be involved and listen to the advice given by your child’s therapist. It can be tough and sometimes you have to use ‘tough love’ but the end result is worth it.”