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Early Diagnosis Jump-Starts Family’s Autism Journey

Audrey, a mother of twins, began noticing early indicators of autism in her son, Declan, when he started experiencing speech delays, unlike his twin brother. As time went on, she noticed when Declan was excited, he’d begin stimming, and compared to his brother, he experienced difficulty transitioning between activities. 

Concerned about these developments, Audrey scheduled an appointment with the Melmed Center. There, she sought guidance and support from SARRC co-founder and developmental pediatrician, Raun Melmed, MD, who offered her an opportunity to enroll both Declan and his brother in a research study that would provide her with an autism evaluation.

“After the evaluation, Dr. Melmed confirmed my suspicions that Declan has autism,” says Audrey. “He recommended I get in touch with SARRC. So, within hours of his diagnosis, I made the call.”

SARRC’s Family Resource team recommended that she enroll in JumpStart, a six-week program designed to assist families who are new to autism spectrum disorder (ASD) by providing essential information, support, and strategies through personalized coaching sessions with a licensed Board Certified Behavior Analyst.

For Audrey, JumpStart served as a crucial starting point in her and Declan’s journey. It allowed her to meet with a SARRC clinician for individualized support and discuss their next steps in terms of services. The program’s learning modules equipped her with a range of strategies that she could implement at home, taking into consideration Declan’s specific needs. 

JumpStart is comprised of eight core topics that cover ASD, applied behavior analysis (ABA), pivotal response treatment (PRT), challenging behaviors, accessing state services, accessing insurance services, individualized education plans (IEP) and toilet training.

“Participating in JumpStart was incredibly beneficial for me,” Audrey said. “The online training modules educated me about the process of seeking and applying for state and school services, applied behavior analysis, and pivotal response treatment. I had the opportunity to discuss these topics with our BCBA and practice these treatments with Declan under her guidance. Without JumpStart, I believe it would have taken me much longer to figure out what to do after receiving the diagnosis.”

Since completing JumpStart, Declan has made significant progress in improving his language skills. He has learned to directly communicate his needs, which was a challenge before the program. Additionally, Audrey has gained valuable insights into the importance of engaging with Declan on his terms, especially when he interacts with his twin brother or in everyday situations.

“I’ve learned to refrain from asking too many questions, which is something parents often do. We tend to bombard our kids with questions when we interact with them, which doesn’t always meet them at their level,” Audrey explained. “A major aspect of JumpStart was shifting away from questioning and actively engaging in Declan’s world, rather than being an outside observer who asks questions.”

Armed with the strategies she learned from JumpStart, Audrey is eager to continue building on the progress she and Declan have made.

“JumpStart truly jump-started our journey as a family,” Audrey said. “The program provided me with a roadmap for the next steps we needed to take. Looking ahead, I have Declan enrolled in a variety of different services, and while it’s a process that takes time, the sooner you understand their needs, the sooner you can access the services that will benefit them.”

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