For Samantha Espinoza, the early indicators of autism were noticeable in their daughter, Eden, as early as 2 years old. Eden routinely found difficulty in being flexible with routines and sensitivity to sensory input, which often led to prolonged meltdowns. And while she had always been sociable, had struggled with social interactions.
Despite these challenges, their pediatrician advised Samantha to wait for an official diagnosis of autism, suggesting that Eden would “outgrow” her troubling behaviors. However, as Eden entered preschool, her behavior became increasingly difficult for her parents and teachers to navigate.
“We’ve always felt extremely challenged by Eden, but things were getting more serious, and her meltdowns were getting worse,” Samantha says. “One of her teachers noticed that her behaviors mirrored those of children he had previously taught who received a diagnosis, and they recommended that we seek an evaluation.”
Samantha and her husband immediately scheduled an appointment with their pediatrician to receive a referral for an evaluation. Over the course of a year, Samantha explored her options and found SARRC and scheduled an evaluation for Eden. At this time, she was just entering kindergarten, and her behaviors were becoming more prominent.
Through an evaluation with a SARRC psychologist, Eden was officially diagnosed with autism at age 6, finally providing much-needed answers and clarity to Samantha and her husband.
Unsure of what services to seek for Eden, the Espinozas explored the many programs SARRC offers for families new to autism. That’s when they learned about JumpStart® a six-week SARRC program that connects families with a licensed Board Certified Behavior Analyst® for customized coaching sessions to fit their needs.
“Prior to JumpStart, my husband and I just felt overwhelmed. We were unsure of what to do next in terms of services and how to support Eden at home,” Samantha says. “We wanted to learn how we could help Eden see that we are here to guide her towards the right behaviors and not simply control or take away her autonomy.”
Through personalized support from a SARRC clinician and online learning modules, Samantha and her husband were introduced to a variety of strategies that they could implement at home while also considering Eden’s needs.
“The JumpStart modules were a great baseline of information that we didn’t know we needed to learn to help Eden,” Samantha says. “Eden was considered and not simply dismissed as a ‘difficult child.’ Our therapist made us feel deeply validated in our struggles and genuinely cared for our success.”
The program provided a sense of relief for Samantha and her husband while allowing them to get a full picture of Eden and adjust their modeling behavior to best serve her specific needs.
Since completing JumpStart, Eden has been more willing to try and articulate her needs by directly asking, and she is able to better transition from activity to activity, something that her parents found difficult before the program. Samantha and her husband look forward to continuing to find ways to keep Eden motivated and guide her toward the outcome they need, something they’ve learned from the program.
“I personally feel validated in the ways I have been trying to help Eden, and I know my husband has felt more empowered to try different approaches that he’s confident are the best for her,” Samantha says. “We hope to continue learning more from SARRC’s programs in the future.”