Sarah and Doug wanted for their daughter Alice what all parents want: a chance for her to learn, grow and reach her highest potential in life. Diagnosed with autism at a young age, Alice struggled in school and at home with challenges that affected her ability to learn, communicate, care for herself and more.
Sarah searched for a place where Alice could learn to be more independent and not be confined to a world where she was limited by her challenging behaviors. She wanted a school where Alice could follow a daily schedule, effectively communicate and learn, rather than spending her days going from one inappropriate behavior to another. Sarah knew it was possible; she knew Alice could be successful in the right environment.
Alice enrolled at Heartspring in February 2003. At that time she was overweight, strong-willed and often non-compliant with her daily schedule. Her frustration level was so extreme that she would scream, have tantrums and sometimes act aggressively. At Heartspring, Alice’s program was tailored to meet her needs. She was given a daily schedule including an adapted physical education program lead by APE teacher Travis Grover. Due to this individualized program and consistency by all staff, she has lost over 70 pounds and is a much happier and active young lady.
Sarah remembers that one of the first milestones for Alice was being able to get on a treadmill and exercise, something she refused to do at home. Soon she was also riding the adapted tricycle which she calls “Big Bird”. Alice also participated in the 2007 Special Olympics Heartland Winter Games in the cross country skiing and snow-shoeing competitions.
“Every time I see Alice, whether at Heartspring or on her visits home, she has improved. She has greater independence, fewer tantrums and is able to interact in the community much more,” said Sarah during a recent visit to Heartspring.
As a mom, Sarah now sees her daughter as the girl she always knew she could be. Alice has improved greatly in group activities and participation. She has learned turn-taking and patience. In addition, she has acquired new coping skills and is very polite in conversation. Most importantly, Alice has shown that she has always been able to learn, it just took the right environment to tap into the skills that were lying beneath the surface. Sarah knows that when Alice transitions from Heartspring, she will be capable of more independence than ever thought possible.