Heather Decker and her husband, Todd, have three beautiful girls: 7-year-old Emily, 4.5-year-old Charlotte, and 15-month-old Rachel. When their oldest daughter, Emily, was around two years of age, Heather noticed that something wasn’t right. She noticed her speech was delayed and felt that no matter what she did, she couldn’t quite connect with her or get her to understand the things she wanted to teach her. Heather turned to parent classes and read countless books to try and figure out what may be the cause. She even brought up Emily’s development to her pediatrician who said since Emily didn’t have typical symptoms of autism, such as hand flapping or walking on her toes, they should just “wait and see.”
But Heather persisted. She began researching for places in the Valley that tested for autism and finally landed on SARRC. The Deckers were able to get Emily into SARRC evaluation where they ultimately received an autism diagnosis.
“I was sad for a little while after we received Emily’s diagnosis. But then I felt the most tremendous relief because we now had a reason for all the things Emily was experiencing. And because we knew the reason, there was something I could do to help her,” said Heather.
At some point, Heather noticed that Charlotte and Rachel seemed to be behind with their developmental milestones. In particular, her youngest, Rachel, mimicked similar behaviors and had a slight speech delay like Emily. While Heather could often use techniques she learned with Emily to help aid Rachel and Charlotte’s development, she felt that it was best to enroll both Charlotte and Rachel in SARRC’s Milestones program. Milestones is designed for parents just like the Deckers—first-time parents or those who have an older child with an autism diagnosis.
Through Milestones, the Deckers found individualized support for both of their girls.
“When I first started intervention, I knew Rachel wasn’t very interactive during playtime and had some stimming habits,” said Heather. “But SARRC caught behaviors, like Rachel’s eye contact, that I didn’t even recognize was an issue. SARRC taught me how to target those behaviors and how to make things fun so she can learn and develop quicker.”
It is through this education, consistent monitoring, and intervention, that Milestones equips parents with the knowledge and confidence to make their child’s first year and a half of life a wholly supported experience.
Charlotte has since graduated out of Milestones, while the youngest, Rachel, is still currently enrolled. The techniques continue to serve as a valuable resource for Heather and her girls. As for any parents considering if Milestones is right for them, Heather has some advice.
“Milestones is a resource and offers peace of mind. You can use it if your child is fine, or if there are things your child needs to work on, then you can learn how to help them immediately,” said Heather. “We spent a year and a half trying to figure out how to help Emily. But with her sisters, I can use the techniques I was taught and can help them almost instantly.”