If you want proof that early intervention can make all the difference for a child with a developmental disability and his family, you need look no further than 11-year-old Brayden. He is a portrait of hope.
Brayden, who lives in Boone County with his mom, step-father and 5-year-old sister, began receiving services from Boone County Family Resources when he was 4. By then, his family was stretched to the limit, struggling to understand and communicate with him. Brayden was having daily meltdowns, throwing tantrums over ordinary transitions. He chewed on non-edible items and wrestled with playing and maintaining friendships.
Brayden’s parents were exhausted. They needed help – for themselves and their son. That’s where a BCFR support coordinator stepped in, putting the family in touch with professionals who could help.
The list of services purchased by BCFR for Brayden and his family include a wide spectrum of support:
- From 2004-2006, Brayden received behavior therapy.
- In 2005, Brayden’s mom, Pam, attended a conference through Developmental Disability Education to learn more about her son’s autism and how to manage his behavior.
- To address Brayden’s communication delays, he received occupational therapy and speech therapy.
- Brayden also received assistive technology devices to aid his sensory integration, including a suspended swing, protection matt, weighted vest, weighted blanket and an Astronaut Board.
The interventions have been a success.
“Every step we have taken, every service we have accessed has been a part of that success,” Pam said. “The behavior therapy was a true life saver. It taught me so much in my interactions with Brayden and how to help him work through struggles.”
Today, Brayden is in sixth grade at a local middle school where his favorite subjects are math and science. He also enjoys playing video games, watching television and jumping on the family’s trampoline.
For the past six years, Brayden has participated in therapeutic recreation, including Columbia Parks and Recreation adapted swim, Cedar Creek Therapeutic Horseback Riding, Access Arts pottery class and an adapted camp in Kansas City called Heart of America Council BSA-Boy Scout Rotary Camp. His parents also enrolled him in Cub Scouts, which allows him to socialize with typically developing peers.
But it was a chance to perform on stage that inspired Brayden to see himself in a whole new light. In January 2010, he participated in a local production of “Window Pains,” a play about a family struggling to raise a child with autism. Brayden played the part of a boy with autism learning to ride a bike.
The experience hit home. Pam saw her son begin to understand himself and to blossom with older peers. When his school classmates saw the play, Brayden shared with them, for the first time, that he has autism.
If you ask Brayden, he’ll probably tell you he has “normal autism because no one can really tell” he has it. But his mom remembers the days when life with Brayden was a daily struggle and she wondered how her son would complete his education.
Brayden is now dreaming of college and his mom, no longer afraid of the future, welcomes the possibilities. She credits the services her son has received and his hard work for Brayden’s new-found confidence and self-control.
“My goal is to get him prepared to handle the demands of college,” she said. “My goal for me, my family and his teachers is helping us to be understanding when autism gets in the way of his success, rather than forgetting things may be more of a challenge for him.”