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Family of the Month: “Zealand’s Story”

This month’s spotlight story features Zealand Wells. Zealand has been receiving services at Autism ETC’s Nashville location since March, 2022.

Zealand’s story is different from many of the stories we share about our clients. He was diagnosed with autism at 18 months old. He was successfully attending school with minimal issues until 2021, when he was came down with Covid, and later strep throat. These illnesses completely changed his personality. He started aggressing toward others. In fact, his behaviors were so intense, the school called his mom, Nancy, multiple times, asking her to return to school to pick him up.

“I am a single parent. My husband, Zealand’s dad, passed away when Zealand was young. I must work to financially support our family and to provide insurance coverage for Zealand’s needs,” said Nancy. “I had a friend whose child attended Autism ETC. It had been successful for them, so I reached out to the center to find help for Zealand.”

Nancy says she knows Zealand is loved and safe at Autism ETC. “What I noticed from the beginning was that Zealand was well cared for at Autism ETC. He has his moments when his behaviors appear, but nothing is held against him. He is loved. I am now able to go to work and not worry about him because he is safe and respected.”

Nancy went on to talk about the parent training she received from Autism ETC. “It has been amazing. Melissa Guthrie, Zealand’s BCBA, has been so helpful. She has gone with me to meet with various schools to assist with transitioning him back to the typical school setting. I don’t understand everything required by the education system, but Melissa helped me navigate through all of the hurdles. She has Zealand’s best interest at heart, and she knows what he needs going forward.”

Nancy also talked about how Melissa has helped Zealand integrate better into family life. “In fact, we can now attend church together!” “Church was an important part of our lives. But with Zealand’s behavioral issues, it was difficult to attend church. Now we are able to go for short periods of time! Zealand has made so much progress. I have now learned what are his triggers and I have the guidance I need to handle situations so that everyone is safe.”

Nancy’s advice to parents is, “Trust the individuals at Autism ETC. They have nothing but the best intentions for your child. You don’t need to worry. Your child will make progress.”

Looking to the future, Nancy said, “Zealand will be aging out of the program at Autism ETC
when he turns 13 next year. I have seen how much he has grown and continues to make strides. The staff is working on facilitating Zealand returning to school. They are working on his IEP and completing assessments to help him have a smooth transition. Melissa is communicating with the teachers we have met with to help set him up for success as he moves forward.”