Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Features
Easter Seals
by Jennifer Tomazic


SUSSEX -- When a child is diagnosed with autism, parents can feel like their world is turned upside down. But Easter Seals have a proven method to getting the kids on the right track.

Therapists have helped the Morgans have hope again for their adopted 6-year-old, Kai. When he first came into his life when he was two and a half, he weighed far less than he should have, "he had no interest in communicating, he didn't know how to keep liquid or food in his mouth when eating," said his mom, Chris Prange-Morgan.

When an assessment showed that Kai had a type of autism, the Morgans say they didn't know what the journey would be like for their family. A doctor even told them that Kai may never speak.

"I was just in tears. I could not look ahead to a lifetime of caregiving," said Prange-Morgan. "It was not something I had expected and I was incredibly emotional."

Until she found Easter Seals. The organization is the nation's leading provider of services and support for children and adults living with autism.

Therapists made themselves at home, 30 to 40 hours a week getting to know Kai and what he wanted.

"Then you have to make them ask for it. So whether you start with them using pictures to communicate, sign language, or beginning vocal sounds, those are all ways to get the child verbal," said Tasha Rieke a behavior analyst with Easter Seals.

She says what sets Easter Seals apart from other autism therapy is the personalized and intensive approach of the therapists. Oftentimes, therapists go where the problem is: so if a child has a problem behaving in a mall, the therapist will work with them in the mall instead of an office.

"They believed in our child, even when sometimes we didn't know if we could believe in him, they offered that support," said Prange-Morgan.

When Rieke met Kai a little bit into his therapy she says he was speaking in three word sentences and probably had better grammar than her!

"I help with putting water in the bird bath and in the fountain," said 6-year-old Kai. "I like to play outside or in my room and downstairs in the family room."

Prange-Morgan attributes her son's success to the combination of Easter Seals and the staff at Woodside Elementary School. Kai started going there when he was three and he was in a special needs classroom with Jamie Burczyk and she says he improved so much over the last couple of years that she recommended him for a standard kindergarten class.

"Kids don't spend all their day at school: there's the time at home and time in the community. We all need to work together to make sure these kids succeed," said Burczyk.

Kai's mom says she's seen her sons improvement and couldn't be more thrilled.

"Kai started to take an interest in the world around him. He started to connect. He started to have a sense of humor," said Prange-Morgan.

He's a little chatterbox, according to Mom, and is taking a leadership role in the classroom.

"I don't think we could have done it without them (Easter Seals)," said Prang-Morgan.

Easter Seals has a tool on it's website that allows parents to do a free assessment of their child to see if they're behind in any developmental milestones. Log onto: http://www.easterseals.com/site/PageNavigator/ntlc10_mffc_homepageasq.html