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Family of the Month: “Kaden ‘Charlie’s’ Story”

This month we are featuring the story of Kaden “Charlie” McDonald as told by his mother, Katherine Gusse. Katherine began, “Charlie was not meeting some of his developmental milestones which was noticed by his pediatrician. Although he met some of the milestones, he had a language delay. At 18 months of age, he was only able to say 3 – 5 words. He also had some behavioral and socialization issues. Charlie’s pediatrician recommended that Charlie should have a developmental assessment at Vanderbilt University. It was several months before his appointment at Vanderbilt. One week prior to his 3rd birthday, Charlie was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorders.”

Katherine said, “On the day Charlie was diagnosed I went home and began doing research to find locations that provided ABA therapy since ABA along with speech therapy and occupational therapy were recommended for Charlie. My search led me to Autism ETC. I read the various online reviews which were great and I reached out to the center for services. There was a nine month wait time before Charlie could begin services. During this time, he continued receiving speech and occupational therapy. About the time of Charlie’s 4th birthday, an opening became available at Autism ETC. At the time when this took place Covid restrictions were still in place so I was unable to have a full tour of the center. However, what I did observe was that the staff members who worked with the children truly cared about the clients.”

Charlie began coming to Autism ETC Nashville on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 8:45 a.m. to 2:45 p.m. Katherine continued, “When Charlie began he still had speech delays and behaviors such as flopping down, trying to escape and crying. He had difficulty interacting with peers. He was also working on potty training. Charlie met many of his goals early on. As he progressed with more difficult goals, he began to develop more self-confidence. Charlie had struggled with potty training since he was 1 ½ years old. His BCBA, Cady Branch came up with different strategies until we found what worked and by 4 ½ he was fully potty trained. During times when Charlie was struggling, Cady and the staff met with me every two weeks which went on for several months. All of this has resulted in Charlie making great progress.”

“The parent training and support have been a life saver,” Katherine said. “I can only give so much as a parent. It takes a village to raise a child, especially a child with ASD and Cady and the staff at Autism ETC have been a huge part of our village. Cady has been an angel and a saint. She responds each time I have a question.”

In August, 2023, Charlie started Kindergarten on a full-time basis and is coming to Autism ETC on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons after school. Katherine reports, “Charlie is doing very well attending Kindergarten. I recently attended Charlie’s first parent/teacher conference. His teacher said that he is doing well working independently and does not need reminders to stay on track. I was worried about him not having a 1 on 1 assistant since he is in a typical classroom with 16 students. He has done amazing in school. If he has a behavioral issue, his teacher is able to redirect him. He is also able to engage in play with his peers which he enjoys.”

The words of advice Katherine would share with other families: “Rely on your pediatrician and trust your gut. Check on how your child is developing. Seek out resources and advice. If you do not feel comfortable with what you are being told, get a second opinion. Get your child started into early intervention programs with speech and occupational therapy and ABA. Do not wait! Because of all of the therapies Charlie has received, I think he is going to be able to live close to a typical life with minimal guidance. I see an independent successful future for Charlie.”