This is Team Austin's 3rd year in the WNC Run/Walk for Autism. Our goal is to make Austin's team one of the largest participating groups this year. Our family adores being surrounded by our tribe... and Austin LOVES having his own team. We hope you'll join us by running, walking, donating - or just coming out to support our family and other families affected by Autism. See you on Sept. 8th!
We always knew there was something unique about our beautiful little boy, Austin. From a very young age, he struggled in daycares, group activities, crowds and in many other everyday places. He was super sensitive to noises, smells and certain lights. Austin's temper would go from calm to aggressive in a heartbeat, often for no apparent reason. He had trouble sitting still and focusing on anything but trains and the iPad. He loved to play by himself and only seemed to enjoy certain textures of food (meat!). Austin was falling behind with social, behavioral and academic development. He struggled to stay successful in daycares. We never knew what his reaction would be to any situation, and, as a family, we adapted around his needs the best we could. We kept hearing "he's fine" or "he just needs some time to catch up", but his daily struggles kept getting worse...
In September 2015, Austin was diagnosed with Autism (high functioning), as well as ADHD. Getting the Autism diagnosis was actually a huge relief because we thought we were going to finally be able to access the help we needed. But we realized we were both empowered by this knowledge and bewildered because we had to determine his path on our own since there is no set treatment. We quickly found out that our insurance did not cover much related to Autism - and the bills for pediatric developmental doctors, OT, psychologists were astronomical. Within a few weeks after the diagnosis, Austin was asked to leave his daycare and was placed on waitlists at the only two daycares in our county that could 'handle' him. These daycares had no openings and said they probably wouldn't for years - there were just too many kids with special needs that also needed care. We ended up hiring a nanny until we figured out our next steps. We scoured the internet for weeks, reached out to other special needs parents, made tons of calls to various organizations and Dr. offices, etc. trying to find help... We kept finding information about ABA therapy and how it's the only therapy proven to help kids like Austin, but it costs anywhere from $45,000-$50,000 a year and is not covered by insurance... we were spinning our wheels, and not getting anywhere…
... and then we found St. Gerard House in Hendersonville, NC. We had no idea what it was at the time but Andy called to see if we could get a tour of the Grotto Center. The school has 1:1 constant ABA therapy for 3-7 year olds with a goal of full integration into a typical classroom. The minute we walked in, Austin had a total meltdown and we immediately felt the love and support of everyone that works there. For the first time ever, we, as a family, felt like we belonged and fit in. Austin started school there in December 2015 and made tremendous progress in the 2 years he was under his care. They worked with him daily on focusing, academics, social goals, etc. We are so very thankful for St. Gerard House. Austin still and will always have struggles, but they helped him learn and grow through the barriers that have kept him from learning and making friends in the past.
This Year's Update
In August of this past year, Austin started Kindergarten in a typical classroom with a shadow from St. Gerard House. By the end of November, his shadow was completely phased out! He is doing amazing and is looking forward to 1st Grade next year. He has even completed his first ever afterschool activity - he took an all-boys hip hop class at Pat's School of Dance and recently danced in his first recital. The teachers and assistants are amazing with him at the studio and he loves to dance now just like his sister!
The Autism Society of North Carolina is the leading statewide resource organization serving people across the autism spectrum throughout their lifespans.
We understand the challenges of the autism community because we work with individuals on the autism spectrum and their families every day. We offer advocacy, training and education, and direct care that helps individuals with autism to, increase their social and communication skills, develop independent-living skills, succeed in school or on the job, participate in community activities, and advocate for themselves.
We have a statewide network of resources, connecting individuals with autism and their families to life-changing programs and supports unavailable anywhere else.