Last month, I watched my 14-year-old son, Andrew, surrounded by his fellow students, participate in his first middle-school dance. He swayed back and forth, following the beat of the music.
It’s an experience that for a long time I never thought would happen to Andrew. My son was born with a severe vision impairment, and when he was 6, a doctor told me that Andrew also has autism.
I kept him at home for his first nine years, wrestling with him every morning to prepare him for school. Sometimes he protested silently, sometimes with flailing arms that caused pain and frustration. When Andrew was 9, he started attending the South Dakota School for the Blind in Aberdeen. They did well with his visual challenges, but were not equipped to handle the behavioral issues caused by his autism.
When he was 11, Andrew began attending Children’s Care Hospital & School in Sioux Falls. And it was in the Children’s Care residential behavioral program that Andrew began receiving the help he needed to control his behaviors.
I had been so worried for years that he would seriously hurt himself some day. Andrew would smack himself in the face or run straight into a window with his hands out. He also would verbally abuse himself because he just didn’t like himself very much.
I knew right away that at Children’s Care, Andrew would be safe. If he began hitting himself, the staff would implement his behavior plan to help him learn to calm himself. They developed a routine that gave Andrew the security he needed.
When Andrew would tell me he wanted to come home, I would tell him it’s his behaviors that were keeping that from being possible. Through the staff’s assistance at Children’s Care, Andrew was able to change those behaviors.
When his team told me last fall that Andrew was ready to be discharged, I was scared at first. All I could picture was the way it was before, but Children’s Care provided both Andrew and me with the tools we needed for a successful transition back into our home.
He came home in November 2010, and he’s doing wonderfully. He’s more willing to listen, and at school he’s made his first friend. They spent a recent weekend on a mini-vacation, and that was the first time Andrew has had a friend to do things with other than his cousins.
I asked Andrew recently what he liked best about Children’s Care, and he said, “The staff.” I think so, too, and I thank them for what they did with Andrew. They changed my family’s life—and for Andrew–they saved his life. Andrew’s future is so much brighter, thanks to Children’s Care.
-Shannon B., Sioux Falls