When Jennifer Smith had concerns about her 6-year-old son Langston’s development, contacting Southwest Autism Research & Resource Center was an easy decision, as, throughout the span of 18 years, SARRC has continued to be part of her life professionally and personally.
When Jennifer was a senior in high school, she first heard about SARRC while working at a local family-owned business.
While working at the store, Jennifer grew close to the family and would help them in any way she could, especially after one of their children received an autism diagnosis. With a passion for supporting special needs populations, the opportunity to support the family’s son was something she was interested in.
“This is when I was first introduced to SARRC,” Jennifer said. “My boss, also the father to the newly diagnosed child, knew my passion for working with kids with special needs and connected me to an [early intervention] program SARRC was offering at the time called HabStart Habilitator Provider Training.”
The former SARRC program provided Jennifer with helpful tools and strategies to support their child with age-appropriate language, as well as social and play skills. She also left the program equipped with invaluable life skills that taught her the importance of accepting others and being more empathetic.
“The program taught me to redirect his anger into something more positive when he wouldn’t get his way, and it helped me be a better person and to be more understanding,” Jennifer said.
SARRC would coincidentally follow her into her professional career in 2016 as she would become a member of the Arizona Mulithousing Association’s (AMA) Big Hearts Committee, which raises money for charitable causes, one of which is SARRC.
“Sitting on the committee with AMA was the best part of my job,” Jennifer said. “To have fellow professionals love SARRC and what it stands for as much as I did, I felt at home. Just being a part of AMA and the committee will always be one of the most memorable times of my life.”
The connections and positive experiences Jennifer had as a committee member supporting SARRC’s mission would stick with her when her family noticed changes in Langston’s behavior.
Finding Support Through SARRC
When Langston’s first-grade teacher recently informed Jennifer that her son was experiencing behavioral issues at school and having a difficult time making friends, she knew something was wrong.
“Autism never crossed my mind because he did everything an average child does,” Jennifer said. “But when Langston started to have behavioral issues and social challenges, I reached out to an old friend from the [AMA] Big Hearts Committee for advice. My friend told me I should get an evaluation, which led me back to SARRC, but this time as a parent.”
Eager to help her son, she decided to make a call to SARRC’s Diagnostic Services team.
During the evaluation, a SARRC psychologist observed Langston and asked Jennifer questions regarding Langston’s development and day-to-day functional skills. At the end of the appointment, the psychologist confirmed an autism diagnosis and reviewed the results of the evaluation as well as guided Jennifer with their next steps. A report was also generated with information to help get started with the right autism intervention.
The diagnosis and follow-up provided helped the family get started on a path to support Langston. For Jennifer and her husband, it’s about gaining knowledge and learning ways to make their home more inclusive for their growing son.
“Our story with SARRC is still growing,” Jennifer said. “If you choose SARRC, your journey has already begun, and you will find the support that you’re going to need to help make your child’s life a success.