Like most four years olds, John Michael of Bagdad, Arizona is a “giant bundle of energy,” according to his mom, Jennifer, a special education teacher.
“He [John Michael] is outgoing, adventurous, loves the outdoors, and has a particular love of sprinklers and anything that spins,” Jennifer said. “He hasn't met a grasshopper he couldn't catch and can name virtually every native Arizona cactus he comes across.”
John Michael was diagnosed with autism earlier this year. Like most medical diagnoses, his family was overwhelmed at first. But, as his father John, a photographer, pointed out, learning more about ASD helped the family turn fear into a plan of action.
“Once the prospect of an autism diagnosis came about, Jennifer started searching for resources to help us with the scary journey,” John said. “She came across SARRC in a Google search, then asked around and kept researching to see if it was a legitimate organization. The answer was a resounding YES! We reached out and were excited to find a place that could help us along, and we have attended the New Parent Orientation followed by the Intensive Parent Training.”
John described he and his family’s time at SARRC as nothing short of a “God-send.”
“The New Parent Orientation gave us a great foundation for navigating the system, giving us resources we didn't know existed and helping us with eligibility for DDD and ALTCS,” he explained.
He and Jennifer also noted how the Intensive Parent Training has also made a difference for their family. “We can already see the progress that John Michael has made from the way we interact with him and encourage his language through playing,” Jennifer said.
Both parents had several goals in mind for John Michael when they came to SARRC, including: being able to have a conversation, appropriate ways of asking for help or items he wants, initiating interactions, and playing appropriately with other kids.
Sienna, the SARRC clinician who worked with the family, said that John Michael and his parents had a “wonderful week during the Intensive Parent Training.” Sienna and the family worked one-on-one on a variety of communication skills—and John Michael was particularly fond of playing outside on SARRC’s playground.
“During the Intensive Parent Training, the focus is on the parent and providing them with helpful tools to implement once the family goes home,” Sienna said.
Ideally, the training prepares the parents to continue working with their child at home and helps them to feel prepared to find services in their own area.
“We just want him to be happy and have friends at this stage of his life, and this training has already shown to be effective, as his preschool teachers this year have been reporting that he is a completely different child,” John said. “He still has challenges, but is focusing longer, working harder, and hasn't been aggressive with other students. The success in school has led to a happier, calmer, and more involved little boy.”
Not only has John Michael shown improvement in school, but at home as well.
“We have already seen amazing results with our little guy, and as a family we have grown closer,” Jennifer said. “We now feel like John Michael is feeling more confident and proud that we can understand him and his wants and needs, and we see far fewer meltdowns than we used to.”
Now that they’re implementing the tools they learned at SARRC, John and Jennifer look forward to continuing supporting John Michael on his journey.
“This time last year, [before the diagnosis and working with SARRC], we were very scared and uncertain for his future. Now we have hope, thanks to SARRC,” John said. “We want John Michael to be happy and independent, to have the confidence and tools to pursue his dreams, whatever they may be.”
Intensive Parent Training is a one-week program for families living in rural and remote locations, outside the state of Arizona, or families with a young child in the Greater Phoenix area. Parents and their children 16 months to 6 years of age come to SARRC's Sybil B. Harrington Campus for Exceptional Children to participate in training sessions Monday through Friday for 5 hours each day or 25 total hours of intervention. SARRC clinicians teach parents to implement the motivational procedures of Pivotal Response Treatment (PRT) to meet each child’s communication, social, and behavioral needs. After their initial week-long training at SARRC, families return home and have the option of receiving telemedicine support from SARRC’s clinicians by sharing video over a secure internet connection or by allowing SARRC clinicians to remotely provide ongoing feedback to parents as their child’s skills and needs change over time. For more information, call 480.603.3284 or e-mail [email protected].