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Kathy’s Story

I suspected Ethan’s autism at an early age, around 6 months. He was very attached to me, smiled at me, made eye contact with me, and responded well to my prompts and invitations to play. We had a strong connection and he was easily calmed and comforted in my arms. However, it was easy to see from my point of view that he was not connected to others. When I passed him to his father, my mother, or anyone else, he seemed to barely notice that he was in someone else’s arms. It became increasingly clear that the world around him was small and contained. Fortunately or unfortunately (I can see it both ways) autism is what I did (and still do) for a living. Since the late 90’s I had been working in the field as a therapist, teacher, supervisor and now a Director of the most reputable autism program in the state, The Faison Center. I already knew autism and sadly what I knew was that there wasn’t much guidance on what to do when it was suspected at such an early age. I turned to my own mentors in NY and began to carefully construct a treatment plan at home while hoping that somewhere, somehow I was wrong about what I was seeing. 

As the months passed, we also learned that Ethan was iron deficient and his chronic ear infections were necessitating ear tubes. Following his tubes near his first birthday and steady doses of iron, we began to notice that he was paying a bit more attention to the world around him, but the alarms were still sounding. At 16 months, on faith and in partnership with colleagues, we started an early intervention program at The Faison Center. Ethan began getting ABA services there for short amounts of time, given his age, while spending the remainder of his time at a Montessori program. It wasn’t until he was 18 months old that he was finally diagnosed (due to long wait lists) and then the rest of what we needed to do unfolded. It was risky to do something so new by developing an early intervention program with Ethan and other students his age but as with everything we do a The Faison Center, it was a success and Ethan progressed significantly. Fast forward, Ethan is now attending a non-special education school with some supports and is flourishing. He is 8 years old now, has several meaningful friendships, loves to read and write (and has written many humorous books we regularly read at night), enjoys Taekwondo, swims and plays the piano. He is described by others as silly, kind, and energetic. Every day I am moved by his care in others and his quick wit. I can easily recall how I felt 7 years ago having no idea where this path was going to lead us. And now, I see Ethan as a truly remarkable kid. We are not without our challenges. His disability makes him more vulnerable compared to his peers. However, every day is a better day and with every new joke he writes, we all smile and remind ourselves how thankful we are. 



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