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For the Carey Family, Finding SARRC’s JumpStart Program Helped Unlock Hope

Adalynn Carey was a fussy baby. She liked to be swaddled until she was 8-months-old. As she grew a little older, she’d grunt and cry, but her speech didn’t develop. She was also having a lot of meltdowns.

“I think the biggest sign something was not quite right would be the extreme temper tantrums and meltdowns that were inconsolable,” her dad, Haron, remembers. “You know, you’ve gone down the list—is she fed? Did she hurt something? Does she have a dirty diaper? You go down that list and it’s not one of those in-pain cries. It’s just a full-on episode that you can’t stop.”

An aircraft mechanic for 17 years whose job is to fix things, Haron shares that those episodes made him feel helpless.

“You’re looking at your kid crying on the floor and I can’t stop this, and you feel helpless. You need help.”

There were other signs too, about Adalynn. 

“We were noticing behaviors with Adalynn that we weren’t sure were typical 2- and 3-year-old behaviors,” says her mom, Stephanie.

Adalynn would line up her toys, stare at spinning objects, and she wouldn’t interact with others the way her parents saw other children the same age interacting.

In January 2019, Adalynn was finally diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), as well as Oppositional Defiance Disorder, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder and Sensory Processing Disorder. The family was referred to Southwest Autism Research & Resource’s (SARRC) JumpStart® program to learn the fundamentals of autism, how to access services, and how to help Adalynn communicate her needs and wants through Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) therapy, specifically using Pivotal Response Treatment (PRT).

With JumpStart They Found a Program That Worked with Their Schedule

The Careys lived in San Tan Valley, Arizona—over an hour from Phoenix. They had no family nearby, and Stephanie was homeschooling Adalynn’s older brother.

When they learned that JumpStart—a program that provides information, support and training to parents of young children (up to age 7) who have been recently diagnosed with or are at risk for ASD—was offered either in-person, online, or a combination of the two, they realized it was a perfect fit for their family.

“It was really nice to learn that there was an online portion, or a hybrid version, of the JumpStart program where I could take the classes via the internet, and then drive once a week and only have to arrange for childcare once a week,” Stephanie shares. “Also, Haron works full-time and wouldn’t have been able to get as much out of the program if just I had been going to the classes.”

“Being that the program’s that flexible to take those classes online and be able to do things at home and unlock your kid’s potential is amazing,” Haron says.

Seeing a Difference

When the Careys began the JumpStart program, Adalynn was saying single words, or occasionally putting together two words. She mostly communicated with gestures and sounds. She also mostly spoke nouns—no descriptive words—and wouldn’t answer questions.

“By the time we finished the program, Adalynn was able to use two- and three-word phrases consistently and was understanding how to vary her speech,” says Stephanie. “The Pivotal Response Treatment that we were taught through the JumpStart program was very effective for Adalynn. It was a game-changer for our family and Adalynn. We went from feeling like we had to handle this child to understand how she saw the world and understanding how best to set her up for success in every situation. It taught us what we need to do as a parent to be prepared for what is coming down the lane for her.”

Today, 10 months after starting JumpStart, the family says she’s a different child. She attends school, she says hi to others, and she’s social.

"She’s using her vocabulary more and more every day. She’s telling us what she wants," Haron says. "She’s interacting socially with her kids in class. She plays with people at the park. She likes to play with the dog. She calls people by name. She self-identifies. She didn’t know who she was… she’d look at herself in a mirror and say ‘baby.’ Now she says, ‘I’m Adalynn.’”

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